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Allegheny Valley Hospital to shift adult mental-health services to geriatric patients only
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 11/23/2022
Nov. 23—Adults in the Alle-Kiski Valley seeking mental health care no longer will be able to access in-patient services from Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison.
Beginning Monday, the facility along Carlisle Street will be shifted to provide expanded psychiatry services for geriatric patients only.
"We are not closing the unit but rather changing its focus," said Dan Laurent, vice president of corporate communications.
"We have found that the demand for geriatric psychiatry services is much higher in the geography served by Allegheny Valley than it is for general adult services."
People 60 and older will be treated at AVH.
Younger adults will be diverted to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville or Jefferson Hospital in Jefferson Hills.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention'sNational Center for Health Statistics, the number of adults in the U.S. who have received mental health treatment has climbed dramatically over the course of the pandemic.
The percentage rose from 19.2% in 2019 to 20.3% in 2020, and then to 21.6% in 2021, according to the report.
In many cases, it's the local police who are tasked with transporting patients in need.
Some, such as Harrison police Chief Michael Klein, believe the move by AHN has the potential to create severe obstacles for law enforcement across the Valley.
"It doesn't make sense for me, logically or operationally," said Klein, who has been on the force for nearly 40 years.
"This isn't just about going to the hospital we've been going to forever. It's about being able to maintain contact and availability in or near our own communities."
Klein said transporting patients to Monroeville or beyond takes officers from service in their local beats for large chunks of time.
Springdale Chief Derek Dayoub added that transporting a combative person a longer distance can add distress.
"If someone's violent, that's a long way to go," Dayoub said.
"A lot of times, we go to calls and someone wants to self-commit. We still have to transport them for their safety and to get them the treatment they need. For smaller departments, it takes a toll on manpower to be tied up longer."
The move by Allegheny Health Network is meant to streamline services, Laurent said. It comes in response to the escalating demand.
"We are taking steps to reorganize and optimize the psychiatric and behavioral health care that we provide at various facilities to better meet the specific health needs and demographics of the communities they serve," he said.
University of Pittsburgh professor Eric Meyer studies mental health treatment, including access and methods of delivery.
He said access is "hugely important" for people in need and that barriers tend to decrease utilization.
At the same time, he said, the rise in alternate ways to deliver services is staggering.
"Virtual treatment is not watered down," Meyer said.
Research that compares the same treatment delivered online and in person has shown identical impact, Meyer said.
"As long as people are open to it, I would encourage videoconferencing or other methods," he said. "There is no difference in how effective it is."
Allegheny Valley Hospital will be the only AHN facility in Southwestern Pennsylvania that provides specialized geriatric psychiatry care.
The decision will displace a "small number" of AVH employees, Laurent said.
Anyone impacted, and who is eligible, can apply for other positions across the network.
Children and adolescents seeking in-patient psychiatry programs are served at Western Psych in Oakland and Southwood in the South Hills.
Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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