The opening of a new behavioral health unit in Loudoun County comes at an especially dire time for the state’s mental health system, and hopes are it will help with a lingering statewide bed shortage.
Elected officials and hospital staffers celebrated the opening of the 17-bed unit at HCA’s StoneSprings Hospital in Aldie on Monday night.
Acknowledging the rising need for mental health services and inpatient beds, Cynthia Benbow, executive director of StoneSprings Behavioral Services, said she hopes the staff will get some time to ease into the unit before it is at full capacity.
The behavioral health unit, located on the hospital’s fifth floor, features both private and semi-private rooms for up to 17 adult patients. The unit includes the most modern of features for mental health services, with locked access to the unit and a thorough risk assessment of every item on the floor, from beds to bathroom amenities, to ensure patient and staff safety. The ligature risk assessment, Benbow said, looks at whether an item can be weaponized either against another individual, or to harm oneself.
In each room, for example, shelves are inset in the wall in lieu of freestanding dressers or closets, and beds and chairs are secured to the floor. Even bathrooms come with slanted doors to allow for emergency access and shower curtains are made to break free with any given force.
The floor features group therapy rooms and a dining/activity area, which may also be used for visiting family and friends. There is also a quiet room for patients who need to decompress, and a seclusion room, which Benbow said is used only as a last resort. All rooms are monitored by medical staff.
The floor was intentionally made with an open format, Benbow said, with lots of natural lighting and warm color tones.
“Sunlight is critical to wellness,” Benbow said.
“This is a place where you can feel welcome. It’s not scary,” she said. “[Patients] can have hope and healing, and we needed an environment that was conducive to that.”
Benbow acknowledges that the addition of 17 beds to the state’s inpatient mental health bed capacity will not solve all the woes, particularly at a time when five of the state’s eight psychiatric facilities have closed admissions because of insufficient staffing. But, she said, it’s a start.
Attracting talent to work in the unit went very well, Benbow said, citing the surrounding area and the ability to work in a new, innovative unit. Around 40 to 45 staff members will serve the behavioral health unit in a variety of roles, she said.
To anyone that may come through the behavioral health unit as a patient, whether they be a local resident or one from across the state in need of an inpatient bed, Benbow promises a positive experience.
“We want people to know that they will get compassionate care, care that is safe, and hopefully they will regain some hope and have a sense of purpose,” she said.