By Patrick Quinn
ATLANTA, Georgia (WANF) — On Monday, Atlanta News First got an exclusive look inside Georgia’s first ‘med-psych’ facility set to open at Grady Memorial Hospital.
“The fact that Georgia is actually making this step is really good for Georgia as a whole, as well as a model for other places,” said Dr. Gray Norquist, chief of behavioral services at Grandy Memorial Hospital.
The 16-bed unit will open to patients on Oct. 23.
The facility will treat patients recovering from overdoses and suicide attempts. Also, doctors are trained to treat patients with chronic illnesses and the mental health impacts of them.
“It’s also a great diagnostic unit, so we’ll be able to look and determine what really is the underlying cause for the symptoms people have,” said Norquist.
The state allocated $6.3 million in the governor’s budget to cover construction and operational costs.
Kevin Tanner, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), toured the facility last week.
“As such, the ‘med-psych’ unit will allow individuals who experience a behavioral health crisis and have co-occurring physical issues to receive care for both conditions simultaneously,” a DBHDD spokesperson said on Monday.
The facility also includes two group meeting rooms to help accommodate therapy, education and peer support services.
“As a human being, we have multiple kinds of problems that we need to treat. But understanding that from a team approach is the way to get there rather than one person knowing it all,” said Norquist.
Norquist said less than 3% of hospitals in the country have a “med-psych unit.”
He added 44% of hospitals in the Netherlands have such facilities.
Anne Hernandez, vice president of behavioral health at Grady, said there will be four physicians committed to the unit.
“It’s exciting and scary I have to say. The scary part is whether or not we’ll have enough capacity to serve all the needs,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez said they’ll initially fill the beds with patients already receiving treatment at Grady.
They will soon start accepting transfers from hospitals across Georgia.
All physicians will be board-certified in both internal medicine and psychiatry.
Each month, Norquist said Grady helps treat 800-1000 patients with urgent psychiatric needs.
Nursing and technical staff will also be trained to help treat specific patient needs.
Each room is designed to prevent those battling mental illness from harming themselves.
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