The Cambridge Health Alliance wants to convert half of the beds in new units for children and teens with neurological and developmental disabilities to spaces for adolescents with more common mental illnesses. Most of the special beds are empty.The health care system asked state officials on Tuesday for permission to make the change, chief executive Asad Saya said.
“We are in a learning phase,” Saya told members of the CHA’s finance committee. As of Jan. 24, the 24-bed unit had only five patients, he said. “We have units that have been open for years that are not fully functional,” he said. “Right now, he has one patient in the largest hospital and he has only eight.”
Neurodevelopmental disorders in children and teenagers include autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and intellectual disability. The new unit is part of a significant expansion of psychiatric services for children and adolescents on the CHA Somerville campus, which has more than doubled the number of beds in its age group. The Health Alliance had never treated children with neurodevelopmental disorders before.
It is not clear whether CHA is considering terminating Neurodevelopmental Services entirely. He added that adolescent psychiatric treatment is “where it is needed”. System spokesperson David Cecerre said: The Neurodevelopmental Program is a new specialized unit that will take time to develop, including training and staff recruitment. Given the tremendous demand statewide, we are exploring options when it comes to expanding access to inpatient psychiatry for adolescents, a much-needed area. ”
A 24-bed neurodevelopmental ward, a 21-bed youth space, and a 24-bed space for children ages 3 to 12 opened in June. State leaders said the CHA had expanded services at a time when children and teens with mental health crises had been waiting days, sometimes weeks, for available hospital beds. I was praising that.
None of the new hospital wards in Somerville look full, though. Psychiatric discharges in Somerville, where mental health is the only inpatient care, were more than 70% below budget levels as of Dec. 31, according to the latest financial report filed with the trustee.
In addition, hospital admissions for all age groups in CHA continue to lag well behind expectations. Overall psychiatric hospital discharges were more than 50% below projections for the fiscal year ending June 30, according to the report.
Aside from psychiatry, CHA is battling a statewide shortage of anesthesiologists, said Chief Financial Officer Jill Batty. Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Hoffman called it a “crisis”, but Batty said “surgical volumes have been fairly stable” and Hoffman said surgeries were “very close to budget projections” despite underfunding. There are,’ he said.