Beaumont's psychiatric facility in Dearborn helps fill 'serious shortage'

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
Renderings of a new Beaumont mental health hospital.

Mental health advocates lauded plans announced Monday for a new psychiatric hospital in Dearborn, saying it will bring needed relief to the region's strained mental health system.  

Beaumont health announced it will begin construction on the new 150-bed, free-standing psychiatric hospital in early 2019. The comprehensive facility will also expand capacity for outpatient mental health treatment and clinical psychiatric training. 

The facility will be constructed on eight acres of vacant land across the street from Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn, near the Southfield Freeway. It will be built in partnership with Universal Health Services, one of the nation's largest mental health providers with more than 200 mental health hospitals serving more than 600,000 patients annually across the country.

There are currently 1,273 adult psychiatric beds serving Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Washtenaw and St. Clair counties — about 222 fewer than needed to meet the region's mental health care needs, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“The shortage of resources for mental health is a national problem and very much one here in southeast Michigan,” Beaumont Health President and CEO John Fox said in a press release. “Beaumont and UHS intend to substantially fill that gap by providing specialized care for patients, along with investing in medical residencies, clinical training and the latest in telehealth technology.

"This endeavor is so much more than bricks and mortar – it will be the new ‘hub’ from which we will coordinate the entire continuum of services for comprehensive inpatient and outpatient mental health care, clinical training and innovative new approaches to accessing care.” 

The plan unveiled Monday includes:

  • Construction of a $40 million dedicated mental health hospital that will double Beaumont’s capacity for inpatient mental health care.
  • Specialized academic mental health training, including the addition of Beaumont graduate medical education programs in psychiatry, psychopharmacology and other clinical training opportunities.
  • Enhanced and expanded intensive day programs and outpatient care.
  • An integrated assessment and referral center to support the community and Beaumont.
  • Mental Health Emergency Centers.
  • Substance use disorder treatment for those who are also receiving care for a mental health diagnosis.
John Fox, president and CEO of Beaumont Health, unveils a rendering of the new mental health facility during the press conference.

The plan will be implemented over three years, according to officials, and will provide mental health services for adult, pediatric and geriatric patients.  

The new Beaumont facility is the second new psychiatric hospital to be announced in the past month.

Ground was broken Oct. 19 for a new 225,000-square-foot facility to replace Caro Center in Michigan's Thumb region.  The state-run facility will open in 2021, and have 200 beds -- a 50-bed increase over the current hospital, which opened in 1914 as the Caro Farm Colony for Epileptics.

There is a shortage of in-patient psychiatric beds across the state and rest of the nation, according to Kevin Fischer, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) in Michigan. 

In Michigan, suicide rates increased 32.9 percent between 1999 and 2016. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the state, according to the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, nearly 1 in 5 Americans, or 43.8 million adults, has a diagnosable mental health condition. 

"Anytime that there's some additional psychiatric beds available, that's a great thing for the state of Michigan because we have a severe shortage," Fischer said. "I'm hoping it will include beds for adolescents, because we have an even more severe shortage of psychiatric beds for young people who live with severe emotional disorders.

"They also said something about trying to attract more mental health workers here in the state of Michigan," Fischer added.  "That is wonderful, because nationally there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals, and here in Michigan it's really bad. 

"While we have great schools like the University of Michigan and some of the other universities that have schools of psychology and psychiatry, a lot of those young folks unfortunately, because the pay in Michigan is so low, they get their degrees and they move on to other states."

Most of the Detroit region's psychiatric beds are located inside general hospitals such as Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital and Ascension St. John Hospital and Medical Center.

The region also has several dedicated psychiatric hospitals including Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills, Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital in Ferndale and The Behavioral Center of Michigan in Warren.

Three of Michigan's state-run psychiatric hospitals are located in Southeast Michigan, including the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ann Arbor, Hawthorn Center in Northville and Walter Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland.  The others are Caro Center and Kalamazoo Psychiatric Center. 

"I think it's great," Dana Lasenby, chief clinical officer of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, said of Beaumont's announcement. "It's great to have that resource in the community."

Tom Watkins, the former president CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, said mentally ill people end up in jails or homeless due to the lack of in-patient beds to treat severely mentally ill people.

He said many of the psychiatric beds available at hospitals are occupied by people who do not have severe metal illness but are preferred by hospitals because they have excellent insurance coverage. 

"It's a major problem not only here but across the country. Our jails and our prisons and our streets have become the de facto mental hospitals since the rapid (mental hospital) closures in the 90s," said Watkins, who served as director of the former Michigan Department of Mental Health before the agency was folded into the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  

"The issue is going to be whether the (Beaumont psychiatric) hospital is for the 'walking worried' or for persons with serious, persistent, chronic mental illness -- people with depression, manic depression, schizophrenia.  

"That's who's going to require acute hospitalization, and we should not be filling our beds up with the (people who are not severely mentally ill) but with those with the greatest need."

Twitter: kbouffardDN