Baystate Medical Center to offer 12-bed behavioral health unit for children in wake of area shortage

Baystate Health will open a temporary 12-bed child and adolescent unit at its Baystate Medical Center campus in April, the health system announced Friday. Providence Behavioral Health, operating locally as Trinity Health Of New England, closed its 74 inpatient psychiatric beds in September that it once offered in Holyoke. That number included the only 12 pediatric psychiatric beds for children and teens available in the region.

Losing Providence worsened a long-felt chronic shortage of pediatric behavioral health beds and left many vulnerable children without any available inpatient resources in the region.

There has been an alarming numbers of children waiting for days and weeks in the emergency room and on pediatric medical units.

Baystate Health has been collaborating with the state Department of Mental Health on how to meet the behavioral health needs of the younger population, according to Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of Baystate Health’s Department of Psychiatry.

“This new unit will serve as a bridge allowing us to provide inpatient psychiatric care for children and adolescents over the next two years when our new Baystate-Kindred joint venture behavioral health hospital opens with a permanent pediatric/adolescent unit. This temporary plan is consistent with Baystate Health’s longstanding commitment to behavioral health services,” said Sarvet, , who specializes in pediatric psychiatry.

The unit at Baystate Medical Center will fill an immediate need until a $43 million, 120-bed behavioral health hospital is built from the ground up at the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority site.

Competitor Holyoke Medical Center, citing the same factors, is spending $6.5 million converting its former birthing center into a nine-bed pediatric unit and 18-bed adult unit are expected to open in May. Holyoke Medical Center has already begun advertising to hire staff.

The project is separate from ongoing plans for an 84-bed psychiatric unit of its own at the Holyoke Medical Center campus.

But Baystate and Holyoke Medical Center’s plans are in conflict. Holyoke Medical Center President Spiros Hatiras has said it was unlikely the state would approve two psychiatric facilities so close together.

Both new hospitals are years in future with Baystate planning to open in 2023.

Baystate’s planned facility will address the shortage of inpatient behavioral health beds in the region for adults, including geriatrics, as well as adolescents and children.

“Baystate Health is fully committed to the principle that behavioral health is integral to the overall health and well-being of all people in our community. Accordingly, we proudly accept our responsibility to address critical gaps in clinical resources to meet the needs of people of all ages who are struggling with psychiatric illness,” Sarvet said.

Baystate plans to consolidate services in Holyoke.

When the new hospital opens, the health system will close 22 psychiatric beds at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, 20 at Baystate Noble in Westfield and 27 at Baystate Wing in Palmer.

Baystate will retain 28 psychiatric beds at its main campus in Springfield.