Astria Toppenish Hospital addresses mental illness in the Yakima Valley with new programs

Astria Toppenish Hospital addresses mental illness in the Yakima Valley with new programs

TOPPENISH, Wash.- Medical experts say mental health services are becoming more and more scarce in the Yakima Valley, and an overflow of patients that need to be served.

"We have a lot of patients and people that don't even know that they have a problem, and this is the first time that something like this has been offered and we've only been here for a few months," said Chemical Dependency Professional at Astria Toppenish Hospital Nakia Becerra.

The 2013 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services report showed here in Washington, over 230,000 people 18 and up were diagnosed with serious mental illness. In the U.S. about 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental illness every year. More than half of non-metropolitan counties have a single psychiatrist.

Two months ago, Astria Toppenish Hospital opened a Medical Withdraw Management Program that takes in patients going through chronic alcohol or drug withdrawals to address this issue.

CEO at Astria Toppenish Hospital, Eric Jensen, says this program is the only one in the region to manage people who have both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder.

They take in patients for the first three to five days during their withdrawal, then refer them to a local treatment or counseling clinic. Jenson says the need is there, and so far they have had more referrals than they have beds.

"We've had 119 referrals for services, we've admitted 63 patients who have successfully completed the program just since October," said Jensen.

Jensen says soon they will also be opening a 15 bed psychiatric unit. A portion will be for for long-term patients that are referred by mental health professional to stay for 90 or more days.

They will also taken in short-term psychiatric patients that are suffering from chemical and psychiatric problems.

"Two of the top five priority needs in our region are behavioral health needs both for chemical dependency and psychiatric problems. So that's high on our list of things to work on," said Jensen.

The clinic will staff 15 mental health professionals that will provide counseling, therapy, and plan for what they do after the program.

Astria Toppenish Hospital's psychiatric unit will open within the next two weeks.

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