Flint, MI—Hurley Medical Center has launched a new hospital unit to serve youth with mental health conditions. 

The Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit caters to patients from the ages of 12 to 17 years old, offering inpatient care to adolescents admitted for overnight stays. 

Dr. Ashish Rungta, a psychiatrist at the Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, said a shortage of inpatient units for children with mental health issues has contributed to long waiting lines in Hurley’s emergency rooms and other medical centers across the country.

The hospital’s new 11,000 square foot unit has 14 beds and provides personalized care plans for patients, according to the hospital press release.

A semi-private patient room of Hurley Medical Center’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit. (Image courtesy of Hurley Medical Center)

“Before this unit opened up, we had children waiting in emergency rooms for days at a time,” Rungta said. “Hurley was proactive enough to start this unit with the idea of helping these kids out.” 

The unit serves adolescents who are at immediate risk to themselves or others. Patients include those with depression, anxiety, extreme aggression, suicidal ideation or have attempted suicide, Rungta explained.

Hurley’s previous inpatient behavioral health unit for adolescents closed in 2005 due to a lack of patient referrals, Hurley officials told Flint Beat, but along with the growth in awareness around adolescents’ mental health is the increase in demand for services.

Binny Patel, Hurley’s director of behavioral medicine, said families in Genesee County have had to travel long distances to receive inpatient mental health care. She said Hurley’s new unit now makes inpatient care more accessible for adolescents in the county.

“This was the best [way] to keep the adolescent here and the family members from not having to travel very far to get those services,” Patel said.

The $4 million project was partly funded by a bond. Additionally, a $350,000 grant from The Roots & Wings Foundation helped purchase furniture and equipment, and another $550,000 donation from Panda Express funded the unit’s Panda Cares Center of Hope, according to Hurley’s press release.  

Aside from patient lodging, the center features a noisy activity room and a quiet activity room. Rungta said the former is designed for group activities such as games, therapy sessions and arts and crafts, whereas the latter offers space for patients who are sensitive to sensory overload. 

The noisy activity room of Hurley Medical Center’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit. (Image courtesy of Hurley Medical Center)

Patel added that Hurley has partnered with various organizations to provide services at the unit. 

She noted that a teacher from the Genesee Intermediate School District works with patients on their school curriculum; a music therapist of the Flint Institute of Music offers weekly music therapy at the unit; and a hospital liaison from the Genesee Health System, the county’s public mental health provider, connects patients to the care they need after hospital discharge.

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...