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Community-based Mental Healthcare’s Impact on Knoxville

Posted on August 12, 2013 in Press Release

“In November 2011, Commissioner (Doug) Varney announced that Lakeshore would reduce admissions starting in January of 2012, and then by the end of June, the facility would completely close,” recalls Peninsula Vice President Liz Clary. “We had to find a way to accommodate the influx in hospital admissions so that we could care for the mental health patients who need us most.”

The state official’s announcement was met with reserve by members of the community who feared their loved ones would not be able to get the treatment they needed, but also a guarded view was held by the hospital being asked to take on the lion’s share of Lakeshore patients. It was going to be challenging to not only have more patients, but, on average, patients with more serious and complex mental diagnoses. Capital investments were also needed, along with changes in staffing. One year later, with support from Covenant Health and the efforts of our employees, Peninsula Hospital has risen to the occasion.

Peninsula not only has risen to the occasion, but has continued to excel in caring for some of the area’s most dire patients throughout the transition. With a multi-professional team comprised of experienced people from across the continuum of mental healthcare, a plan was laid out which identified the challenges, predicted the potential problems and got the job done.

On average, Peninsula Hospital serves about a dozen more inpatients per day since Lakeshore closed. Even with the additional volume, Peninsula has been able to increase its customer satisfaction score and maintain or improve its performance in safety quality measures. As Clary looks back at the past year, she points to increased collaborative efforts within the community such as the regular meetings with a community providers group including representatives from local law enforcement, hospital emergency departments, mobile crisis and a state mental health facility. The group works on the continuum of services for behavioral health patients in the area.

“Peninsula participates in the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for officers from the surrounding areas’ police and sheriff’s offices,” she says. “It’s a simple thing, but it facilitates understanding about mental illness, and when that happens, patients benefit. It takes a huge village to care for these patients,” she says.

“When Commissioner Varney said he wanted to partner with us for community-based care of mental health patients, it was just as much about making things better for the patient as it was a cost-saving measure for the state,” says Clary.

Clary sees it as a true partnership with the state and anticipates even more positive changes in the future.

“Because of the state’s involvement, Peninsula is able to provide things like transportation and medication in ways that weren’t options before,” she says. Clary also points to the increased rate of outpatients who are keeping their first appointments, and a lower number of readmissions.

“I really celebrate that these patients are receiving better care,” she proclaims. “They deserve it.”

Once you get past her talk of bricks-and-mortar improvements, the supplemental staffing and the processes of running an efficient hospital, you find that while Clary is proud of the accomplishments of the past year, she is most passionate about something else. It’s the rare commodity that Peninsula offers to East Tennessee patients and their families, and which must be preserved regardless of how delivery care modules change.

“It’s hope,” she says with a smile. “Simply hope.”

In additional to the 155-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital in Blount County, Peninsula also has outpatient facilities in Knox, Blount, Loudon and Sevier counties.