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Improved Behavioral Health and Intensive Outpatient Programs Benefit Community and Staff

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Behavioral Health Services

So many positive changes have been made over the last year in the behavioral health services that Barbara Neefs, program director, even surprised herself when she listed them: Detox unit renovations; new inpatient and outpatient program protocols; and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) expanded services, increased patient safety and satisfaction.

She is particularly gratified that all of this has led to improved employee morale. “I’ve been a big champion of improving patient satisfaction and staff morale,” she said. “We’ve accomplished a lot.”

The renovations in the 18-bed detox unit began a year ago. The sterile white walls were repainted in soothing shades of lavender, salmon and tan and abstract artwork in coordinating colors was displayed. New furniture and curtains were brought in and long-needed repairs completed.

“These color combinations create a warm space, which lowers patient stress,” Neefs pointed out.

Another way patient stress was lowered was unlocking the doors of the 101-bed voluntary inpatient unit, which formerly had been locked. “We’ve noticed that the patients are much happier and less anxious now that they have more freedom of movement and aren’t locked in their own wings,” she said.

To improve patient safety several new processes were implemented. For example, the staff now uses a national detoxification assessment scale to track patient progress and improve medical management.

Every patient receives a formal suicide assessment and nutritional evaluation to better assess his or her status. In addition, discharges are now done as a multidisciplinary team with a doctor, counselor and nurse all participating in the patient’s discharge plan.

Neefs also launched a quarterly staff newsletter filled with staff recognitions, wedding and baby announcements, new staff introductions, recipes, photos of staff outings and educational articles. 

“Visible changes like these make staff happy… and that makes me happy,” she said.

Intensive Outpatient Program Moves to Larger Space

Another improvement was relocating the growing IOP from a confined medical office space to a hospital unit. The larger new space has an assessment room with exam table, meeting rooms, nurses’ station, staff offices, and a full kitchen. Spa-style cucumber- and lemon-infused water dispensers provide patients with a healthy alternative to the vending machines.

To soothe patients, relaxing cool jazz and soft rock are played on the speaker while a TV runs a continuous slideshow of photos contributed by the staff and patients.

“The slideshow has become a therapeutic source of pride and conversation for patients,” said Hope Wilkinson, IOP program coordinator. “Patients enjoy saying, ‘that’s mine on the slideshow.’”

Wilkinson says average daily attendance has nearly doubled, thanks to new two care coordinator assistants who help market the program and assist with daily operations.

The assistants go to the inpatient Behavioral Health Unit and visit community board-and-care homes and skilled nursing facilities to talk about the benefits of the IOP, make calls when patients don’t show up, and track patients’ medication and nutrition needs.

“They’re such a lifeline for us and a bridge between patients and our facility,” Wilkinson said. “Having them makes a world of difference!”  

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