BLOOMINGTON — A new program at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center could help reduce the stress and wait for people who come to the hospital when they are in a mental health crisis.
The telemedicine program expected to be available by March will provide 24-hour consultation services for psychiatric care, Colleen Kannaday, Advocate's chief executive officer, told a McLean County Board advisory committee on mental health Wednesday.
The advisory group is one of five committees working on final proposals on improvements needed to improve community mental health services. Deficiencies have been scrutinized since a 2012 report from the National Institute of Corrections on how mentally ill inmates at the jail are housed and the lack of services for inmates after they are released.
A critical shortage of psychiatrists in rural communities has left patients and hospitals without adequate resources, said Kannaday. She said Advocate has met in the past with police and fire departments and the coroner's office on how to address the increasing number of mentally ill people coming to the emergency room.
"What do we do? There's nowhere for them to go and they don't belong in either place," said Kannaday, referring to the hospital and jail.
Staff in the emergency room and other areas of the hospital will have access to a specially trained mental health clinician and a psychiatrist.
A trip to the emergency room can last for days as staff work to locate a bed in an out-of-town mental health facility if Advocate's unit is full.
The hospital also has brought Mark Benson, a local counselor who provides services at the jail, to help with mental health training for hospital and jail staff.
Jail superintendent Jamie Kessinger told the committee that training is critical for staff who deal with mentally ill people. Correctional officers have learned to think creatively by offering incentives to inmates for taking medications, he said.
Kessinger said Benson also teaches Critical Incident Team mental health training for area police officers. The hospital and other agencies will benefit from having consistent training from one professional, he said.