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Sheridan Memorial Hospital has received a grant to develop an emergency mental health facility

Sheridan Memorial Hospital

Sheridan Memorial Hospital was awarded a $5.9 million grant from the State Loan and Investment Board on Nov. 16. The money will help develop an Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, Healing (EmPATH) and a Crisis Stabilization Unit to serve Sheridan County and the surrounding region.

“The entirety of it [the grant] is for capital construction, associated with a $12.8 million project that includes renovation of existing facilities at the hospital,” said Mike McCafferty, CEO of Sheridan Memorial Hospital. “What happens with the funds is that we will be renovating space that is currently used for our medical unit and we'll be creating, sort of, a psychiatric urgent care or behavioral health urgent care, which will act as a front door to our EmPATH unit.”

The facility will include eight adult inpatient behavioral health beds and two adolescent ones. Currently, the resources for providing behavioral health treatment are limited and insufficient in treating patients locally. Besides offering tele-psych services, the hospital also has full-time mental health professionals, support staff, 24-hour security, and transportation to get patients to other mental health facilities in the state, but no emergency facilities.

“We have a fractured system of care in Wyoming, and it starts with a lack of clinical expertise and the lack of people who have the skills and expertise to appropriately care for behavioral health issues, [for] people in small communities,” he said. “Because the lack of physical capabilities that we have or space to be able to keep people, we’re in [a] position where we’re transferring people out of our community to other mental health facilities for inpatient care. And the problem with that is that there's a waiting list across the state, and so it's not like you can get somebody in right away. There might be a 10 to 14 day wait before somebody can get to the appropriate level of care and that’s just unacceptable.”

Patients that are held on a Title 25, an involuntary hold, are transferred to the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper or the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston. They must receive treatment within a certain period of time and within Wyoming according to state statute, McCafferty added.

Non-Title 25 patients are transferred to Gillette, Laramie, Cheyenne, or even out of state. The condition of the grant stipulates that the Sheridan facility be completed by 2026. But even with the opening of the facility still a few years off, hospital officials are looking at what the needs will be to adequately staff it.

“We're kind of working in tandem with the construction project itself, we're starting to look at what the needs are going to be to the best care for the region from the perspective of clinical expertise,” McCafferty said. “So, we’re working with a couple different vendors to try and determine exactly what we will need to care for the patients.”

Plans for the mental health facility have been welcomed both locally and from other communities in the area.

“We've seen over the last couple of years, we've seen a 20 percent increase in the involuntary holds that we've had, we've seen a 20 percent increase in the number of transfers that we've had out of the community. This issue of mental health is one that we certainly need to address in our community,” he said.

The hospital has also partnered with local, regional, and statewide stakeholders that seek to build community partnerships to address the mental healthcare needs for the region.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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