STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- For years, some children requiring hospitalization for mental-health issues were sent off Staten Island due to a lack of beds here.
But the expansion and upgrade of the Psychiatric Children's Unit at Richmond University Medical Center should help keep those kids in the borough and ease the burdensome travel on their families.
The project, which will double the number of beds to 10 at the West Brighton hospital, is expected to be completed by mid-April, said Dr. Pankaj Patel, chairman of the department of psychiatry, on Monday.
At the same time, Richmond University plans to finish work on a new psychiatric emergency room, which will replace the psychiatric ER at the former Bayley Seton Hospital in Clifton, Dr. Patel said.
"This is a big deal," said Larry Hochwald, co-chairman of the Staten Island Mental Health Council, which has worked with the hospital and politicians to make the project a reality. "It's a tremendous relief to families that sometimes had to drive to Queens and Westchester. It was criminal to send kids so far away when the services should be closer to home."
Dr. Patel said the psychiatric emergency room will be on the same floor as the medical emergency room, but separated from it.
The psychiatric ER will have separate assessment rooms and waiting areas for children and adult patients, he said.
"It will help with quicker assessment and with safety, security and comfort levels," Dr. Patel said. "That's going to be a huge benefit for Staten Islanders."
The $8 million dual-project kicked off with ground-breaking in November of last year.
It is funded in large part, by a $6 million grant secured through state Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law (HEAL).
The Psychiatric Children's Unit currently has five beds -- about half of what's needed, said Dr. Patel.
As a result, some children requiring hospitalization for mental-health issues were sent to off-Island facilities.
The travel was onerous on many families, making it difficult for them to see their loved ones.
Rosemarie Stazzone, the hospital's chief operating officer and chief nurse officer, has said the goal of the expansion is to provide quality psychiatric care to young children and adolescents closer to their home and their families.
Dr. Patel said the area containing the new children's beds should be completed in about two weeks.
At that point, the section housing the current beds will be renovated.
Patients will be transferred to the new area then, so that five beds are always available for them.
The entire 10-bed unit should be operating by the middle of April, he said.
The new psychiatric emergency room should be finished then, too.
It will create an additional space conducive to more-private treatment of psychiatric patients, said officials.
"We've gone on Staten Island from being a bit behind to being state of the art," said Hochwald. "We've leap-frogged to the front."
on February 25, 2014 at 6:32 AM, updated February 25, 2014 at 6:35 AM Silive.com