Pine Rest to add pediatric mental health center

The facility is a partnership with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
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A mockup of Pine Rest’s anticipated pediatric behavioral center. Courtesy Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services plans to open a pediatric behavioral health center in late 2024.

The center, which will focus on the mental health needs of adolescents, is in partnership with BHSH System’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

According to Mark Eastburg, president and CEO of Pine Rest, the two organizations began discussion on a collaborative service approximately four years ago. As the hospitals tend to share patients, a unifying facility seemed like the logical step, he said, and both organizations began planning ways to reduce care gaps through a new program.

When the COVID-19 pandemic came to West Michigan, those plans were put aside as Pine Rest turned its full focus to keeping its doors open and continuing to provide quality care for patients.

As COVID-19 subsides in West Michigan and the need for mental health care continues to rise, Pine Rest was finally able to announce plans for its new facility, the $62 million Pediatric Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, to be located at the organization’s 220-acre campus in southeast Grand Rapids.

“We said, this is our moment to do something that significantly changes the conversation around access to behavioral health services for kids,” Eastburg said of the decision to move forward with the new facility. “And so our few program ideas expanded into something much bigger and much more comprehensive than what we started with. So that’s how we got to the point of a $62 million pediatric behavioral health center.”

As the new center will focus on filling gaps in adolescent mental health care that Helen DeVos and Pine Rest have identified, Eastburg said Pine Rest leadership has a clear vision of what it will offer there.

One main component of the new pediatric care center will be specific care models and programming for children with autism spectrum disorders. According to Eastburg, when children with those disorders are in crisis, a hospital environment often is unhelpful for them. The new facility will be utilizing a model of care called psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRFT), which provides intensive in-patient treatment in a non-hospital setting.

“Also, since we opened our psychiatric urgent care center about four years ago, we’ve been asked over and over again when we have an urgent care center for kids,” Eastburg said. “That was an opportunity because there’s a lot of kids in crisis that maybe don’t need an emergency room visit but can’t wait four months for an outpatient psychiatric evaluation. The idea here is that they can walk in and get immediate care.”

This new urgent care facility is an expansion of Pine Rest’s current urgent care center but will cater specifically to children, ensuring that they receive critical care in times of need without the extensive wait times that have become standard in mental health care.

According to Eastburg, the urgent care’s benefits are twofold, not only increasing available care options for young patients but also helping curb potential inpatient overload. As patients in crisis receive immediate assistance, the likelihood of them needing intensive inpatient programs decreases.

“If you make someone wait four months who is in a crisis for care, that crisis is going to get worse,” he said. “We’re actually hoping that we can eventually bring down the need for inpatient care because we’re catching things earlier upstream.”

In addition to expanding its urgent care capabilities, the new behavioral center also will increase Pine Rest’s capacity for inpatient care. The center will bring Pine Rest’s number of inpatient beds from 36 to 88 for the treatment of high-acuity patients, developmentally disabled patients and pediatric co-occurring (mental illness/substance use) disorders.

Pine Rest also will see additions to its adolescent outpatient services including telepsychiatry for providers, families and patients in rural areas, new specialty clinics for anxiety/obsessive compulsive disorders, depression, autistic spectrum disorders and eating disorders, substance use disorder programming and an evidence-based psychological assessment center for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, learning disabilities and neuropsychological testing.

A partial hospitalization program also will be added, enabling children in need of intensive therapies or programs but stable enough to be safe in their own homes to receive care that caters to their individual needs.

“Another aspect of this project is expanding the team that we have that cares for kids,” Eastburg said. “So, we’ll do that through expanding our psychiatry adolescent fellowship program.”

Eastburg also plans to add almost 30 new psychiatrists and advanced practice professionals, as well as expanding opportunities for Pine Rest staff, and hopes to recruit more talent to the West Michigan area, an initiative he said is made possible by the Grand Rapids community, which offers an inviting home to incoming recruits.

“We can’t do it (recruit successfully) without the West Michigan business community thriving, and we’re all about helping them and doing our part for the West Michigan community,” Eastburg said. “I feel very fortunate that we (can) recruit people. We’re recruiting people (here) because it sells so well from many different levels, so we’re grateful for the business community for making it a thriving environment.”

Pine Rest and Helen DeVos plan to share models of patient care, which, in addition to a shared use of a system to keep track of patients and their needs, will help smooth the patients’ transitions between the two facilities. Relieving the additional stress of recounting their stories and being able to receive consistent care styles will help make healing and progress easier for young patients.

The Pediatric Behavioral Health Center of Excellence will see its first patients in late 2024, thanks to $38 million awarded through the bipartisan-supported 2023 state budget. Pine Rest will launch a campaign to raise the remaining $24 million needed to fund the project through a combination of philanthropy and other sources.

“We’re here to serve,” Eastburg said, recounting a conversation with Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of BHSH System about their vision for the new facility. “We’re here to serve our kids, our friends, our family, and our neighbors and people we love. That’s going to be our focus. Our relationship is just a means of how to do it. We want to maintain the focus on kids and families. That’s one of the overriding themes I’ve talked to our team about — whatever we do, let’s put the interest of the kids first and foremost. That’s what this is about, working for kids.”

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