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BCMH chief discusses response to behavioral health patients | News, Sports, Jobs


ANSE — Baraga County Memorial Health is offering two new programs to respond to emergency room patients with potential psychiatric issues.

A growing number of patients with behavioral health needs are coming to the emergency room, the hospital’s chief executive, Rob Stowe, told Baraga County Council on Monday evening.

A recent addition is the “model” program. When a doctor declares it necessary, a BCMH employee will come and sit with a behavioral patient. The sitter would notify staff if the patient tries to leave or becomes a threat to themselves or others.

“It’s something that used to be done intermittently by the sheriff’s department, and really taxed their workforce,” says Stowe. “So over the last 60 days or so, we’ve been finalizing this program and using it once or twice a week.”

In addition, a 24/7 telemedicine support system is also about to go online, which will provide the hospital with access to certified psychiatric doctors. Stowe expects the contract with telemedicine provider Avel to be finalized within the next two to three months.

“At the touch of a button, we will have a board-certified psychiatrist available to help with assessments if this patient requires hospitalization, or possibly medication management assistance as well” , he said. “…It will be nice to bounce these things on these highly skilled people.”

More than 300 hospitals nationwide work with Avel, Stowe said. BCMH will be the first in the Upper Peninsula.

BCMH collaborated with Copper Country Mental Health on the project. Indigent or Medicaid patients must be screened by CCMH before being granted an inpatient bed in Michigan.

Some patients have been in the emergency room for eight days while staff try to find an inpatient bed in the state. The last time the hospital attempted to place a patient, the social worker made 41 calls, Stowe said.

“It’s very difficult and that kind of creative thinking is what we’re trying to do to see what resources we can bring in,” he said.

In other actions, the council:

• Congratulated Pam Anderson on her retirement from Baragaland Senior Citizens after 37 years.

• Appointed Abigail Prentice and Jeffrey Sweers as Assistant Medical Examiners.

• approved an additional $900 for the magistrate’s salary to correct a request approved at the June meeting.

•Approved the appointment of Jill Beeler as an Associate Magistrate following her training at the State Court Administrative Office.

• Approved a resolution opposing a proposed change to the administrative rules of the federal Wagner-Peyser Act, which funds Michigan Works local units. An estimated 300 of Michigan Works’ 400 statewide jobs could be eliminated by the change.

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