DePaul Health Center establishes mental health ER

BRIDGETON, Mo. - Hospital emergency rooms across the country are seeing a growing number of patients with mental health problems.

Now, one of the busiest emergency departments in our area will break new ground as it addresses their needs head-on.

"This is going to be our monitoring system," says Laura Dickinson, SSM DePaul Health Center's interim emergency department director. "It shows the camera feeds for rooms 5, 6 and 7, the rooms that have cameras."

It's one of those places you hope you never need to use, but you're glad it's there if you need it.

Thursday morning, SSM DePaul Health Center will officially open an emergency room inside its emergency room. This one specially designed for patients with mental health issues.

"This is just one way that we can provide a healing environment that provides dignity, respect, and privacy," said Kathy Bonser, chief of nursing at SSM DePaul Health Center.

Treatment starts right at the front door. Patients won't be brought into the main emergency room, where there are lights and sounds and too much stimulation. They'll be taken right to the behavioral health unit.

One of the rooms is designed to be completely secure. The others have TVs and recliners.

Laura Dickinson is the SSM DePaul Interim director of the emergency room. She took NewsChannel 5 on a tour.

"We actually have special outlets and sockets to make sure they're not going to do anything to harm themselves."

There are also special door jams to prevent hangings.

But when it came to coming up with a name?

"We thought long and hard about that," says Dickinson.

And in the end, they just stuck with just numbering the beds like the rest of the E.R.

"Once they're evaluated and treated, our goal is to get them to the next level of care as quickly as possible this is not meant to be an area that keeps patients overnight or for an extended period of time," Bonser says.

Nurses at DePaul like the idea, and so do most mental health advocates.

"I think the patients will see a difference as well," says Dickinson.

Of the 70,000 patients seen in the DePaul E.R. every year, about 15 percent of them have a diagnosable mental illness.


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