With safety criteria changing and other behavioral health plans moving ahead, Nebraska Medicine opted to close a unit that has served adults in crisis for more than a dozen years.

Sue Nuss, chief nursing officer for Nebraska Medicine, said The Joint Commission, an accrediting body, adopted stringent suicide prevention criteria for behavioral health facilities nationwide several years ago. Such deaths had not decreased, so the group recently added more.

During the organization’s visit Aug. 12 to 16, she said, visiting officials identified some potential risks for patients in what was known as the adult crisis unit. It was the last remaining patient care area in one of the Nebraska Medical Center’s oldest inpatient towers. All other patient care areas had been moved out of the tower over the past several years.

Given that and the health system’s pending plans to create a psychiatric emergency center on the 42nd and Dewey Streets campus, Nebraska Medicine officials decided to close the unit, Nuss said.

The unit opened in 2003 when the former Richard Young Hospital closed as a response to increased boarding times for behavioral health patients in the hospital’s emergency room.

Nuss, also vice president of operations for the system’s Bellevue Medical Center, stressed that no patients had been harmed. The decision, she said, had nothing to do with the care of patients in the unit but was “solely a facilities decision.”

“This was a conscious decision we at Nebraska Medicine made,” Nuss said. “The Joint Commission did not shut it down; we chose to shut it down.”

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Of the seven patients in the unit, two were discharged, two were transferred within the hospital and three were transferred to the Douglas County Health Center.

Staff members from the unit have been deployed elsewhere in the hospital, Nuss said. They will be available to help with patients who arrive in the ER with behavioral health problems and with medical patients who also have behavioral health concerns.

“We are working together towards a more effective solution for some of these challenges,” Nuss said.

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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