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Mary Greeley Hospital Dissolves Adolescent Behavioral Unit

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AMES, Iowa  --  Earlier this month, Mary Greeley Medical Center stopped admitting children into its inpatient adolescent behavioral unit. The reason: more adults are need of care.

“Our adolescent unit runs at about 40% compared to our adult unit that runs at about 80% occupancy,” says Christy Krause, Director of Behavioral Health Services.

Starting Wednesday, the hospital will transition 18 beds for adult mental health inpatients only. The increased demand isn't just an issue facing Mary Greeley, but hospitals across central Iowa.

Krause says, “It's not enough. In any given month we field between 160 and 280 calls for beds. For every adolescent who calls we get three adults who need beds.”

There are more than 700 inpatient mental health beds across the state; about a fourth of them are in the Des Moines metro area. These are likely the hospitals to which MGMC staff says it will recommend its adolescent patients who go to Ames looking for care.

“They would come our emergency department and be assessed by our emergency room physician as well as a trained psychiatric nurse who will assess their needs,” says Krause. "If they need an inpatient bed, we would look for a facility that provides that service.”

Of the metro’s three main hospitals, Mercy Medical Center and Iowa Lutheran Hospital have beds for both adolescents and adults. Broadlawns is nearing the completion of its mental health care unit expansion, but it only accepts adults. Hospital officials say 14 additional beds will be added. It’s scheduled to be finished sometime in March.

Krause stresses the decision was not based on financial reasons, but rather on a choice to prioritize the patients who need the most help.

The Mary Greeley Medical Center says it’s looking for ways to enhance community bases care so children do not have to be hospitalized to begin with.