Sinai Health Opens $6.5M Unit to Address Mental Health Emergencies

Featured on WTTW. Author: Kristen Thometz

Sinai Health Systems has opened Chicago’s first comprehensive medical unit created specifically to treat patients experiencing mental health crises.

A ribbon-cutting for the $6.5-million crisis stabilization unit at Holy Cross Hospital was held Wednesday. The unit serves as an alternative to emergency rooms which are often crowded and ill-equipped to handle psychiatric emergencies. Like a traditional emergency room, the unit includes a designated area for emergency personnel, including police and paramedics.

“Our work deep in the communities has shown a huge gap in the right kind of care and support to help meet behavioral health needs in Chicago’s most underserved communities,” said Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Health System, in a statement. “Sinai has stepped up to develop the resources required to provide outpatient, inpatient and emergency services where they are needed most.”

The unit can serve up to 32 patients and offers 24-hour immediate access to psychiatric and behavioral health professionals who can diagnose and properly treat mental health conditions, such as an emotional crisis or psychiatric condition in need of immediate medical care. The unit can also treat walk-in patients.

“A lack of mental health services has plagued Chicago for decades,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart in a statement. “We know that 60% of those diagnosed with mental illness never receive treatment and unfortunately, the police and our jails are picking up the brunt of this. We need dedicated places, like Sinai, where those experiencing a mental health emergency can receive appropriate medical care.”

Staffed by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers, the unit will assess and provide behavioral health treatment and follow-up care. It will also connect patients to additional services they may need, like housing and food.

In July 2015, Sinai opened a pilot of the crisis stabilization unit at Holy Cross Hospital with space for a dozen patients. In four years, the unit has served more than 5,000 individuals, and approximately 70% were stabilized and discharged to lower levels of care with referrals for appropriate follow-up care in the community, according to a Sinai press release.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he applauds Sinai’s work “to move the city and state forward in the fight for mental health equity.”

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