ECMC, Kaleida to team on $35M psych unit

February 14, 2012 Updated Feb 14, 2012 at 7:44 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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February 14, 2012 Updated Feb 14, 2012 at 7:44 AM EDT

Kaleida Health is planning to shift its psychiatric units to Erie County Medical Center as part of a joint behavioral health center project pegged at $35 million.

The two organizations announced Monday they have filed joint applications with the state Department of Health for funding to consolidate mental health and drug dependency treatment in one Regional Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, to be housed at the ECMC campus on Grider Street.

The project would be the third collaborative program developed since the two organizations came together under the Great Lakes Health umbrella in 2006. In late 2011, the two combined renal and transplant programs at ECMC in the new Regional Center of Excellence for Transplantation & Kidney Care. In April, ECMC will begin coordinating cardiac services at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus when Great Lakes opens its Gates Vascular Institute adjacent to Buffalo General.

The plan calls for creating a new, 180-bed inpatient psychiatric emergency program by expanding the existing emergency behavioral health facility from 6,500 square feet to 16,000 square feet. An opening is planned for March 2014, pending approvals from the state.

Funding for the project would be supported through an application for $25 from the Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law (HEAL), with ECMC and Kaleida funding the remainder.

Tom Quatroche, senior vice president of marketing and planning, says the application for state funding is integral to the project.

"To be able to financially make this a viable project, the HEAL dollars are vital to this moving forward," he said.

ECMC would also continue its current program, which has 22 detoxification beds and 20 inpatient chemical dependency rehabilitation beds; along with maintaining outpatient clinics on Main Street in Buffalo operated by ECMC and Kaleida, and clinics in Lancaster and North Buffalo.

ECMC now has outpatient volume of 44,300 annual visits, while Kaleida counts 68,829 annual visits. The integrated model would see all services provided onsite at ECMC and at the community-based locations.

In 2011, ECMC's 132 licensed inpatient psychiatric beds had 2,297 discharges; while its 57 inpatient rehabilitation/detoxification beds which saw 1,621 discharges. Buffalo General Medical Center's 91 beds had discharges last year of 2,307 last year.

If approved, the psychiatric emergency room would move from its present location to a separate structure with its own entrance on the north side of the campus. The proposal calls for using the fifth floor space that will be vacated when ECMC shifts its skilled nursing unit to a new facility under construction on the campus. The $105 million, 390-bed nursing home facility is slated for completion in January 2013.

Development of the new program is physician-led by Dr. Yogesh Bakhai, clinical director of psychiatry at ECMC; and Dr. Maria Cartegena, medical director of Buffalo General's department of inpatient behavioral health and psychiatry.

In a statement, both physicians said ECMC has the room to expand services more comprehensively, while meeting a longtime demand in the region. In the past 20 years, the region has seen mental health access slashed, including the reduction of beds at Buffalo Psychiatric Center from 1,200 to 160; an the closing of Gowanda Psychiatric and the West Seneca Developmental Center.

"This would allow us to bring the expertise of our physicians and staff together with ECMC's experienced physicians and staff to create a true collaborative effort," Cartegena said.

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