Indiana Regional Medical Center is looking to build a 33,000-square-foot, 44-room inpatient behavioral health center to serve as a building block for an eventual IRMC medical school.
IRMC is in the early stages of establishing a medical school, and one of the hospital’s first steps includes developing an inpatient behavioral health center that would serve adolescents, adults and geriatric patients. The hospital’s current inpatient psychiatric unit is available only to people age 55 and older.
IRMC is working with HF Lenz Co. to design and develop the behavioral health facility. HF Lenz civil engineer Matthew Szczur presented a conceptual design for the facility’s parking lot to the White Township planning commission on Tuesday. Szczur was seeking input from the planning commission before submitting a final design for approval.
Construction of the behavioral health center, which would be located near the IRMC Medical Arts Building, is also in its early stages. Before IRMC can build its new behavioral health center, the planning commission will need to approve final designs for both the parking lot and the behavioral health building. At this time, IRMC has submitted only a conceptual design for the parking lot.
“What was presented to the planning commission…was a concept project where they (HF Lenz and IRMC) want the planning commission to look at the parking lot design and parking lot calculations before they go ahead with their final design” City Manager Chris Anderson said. “His next steps for him as a developer would be to present a final land development plan to the planning commission. We would review it like we would any other plan and approve or deny it.”
Because the establishment of the behavioral health center is still in its preliminary stages and nothing has been approved, Anderson and Szczur said it’s unclear at this time when construction on the IRMC might begin.
“Right now, with the economy and everything going on with supply and stuff, it’s a bit up in the air as to when that would be a finite date (for construction),” Szczur said. “I’m in the planning process, so (I’m) going through all the necessary approvals basically at this point to get to that point. … Whether it happens or not, I guess we’ll find out.”
The proposed inpatient behavioral health center would be one of the few recent steps IRMC has taken to become a teaching hospital. In July, IRMC introduced a rural family medicine residency program, the hospital’s first residency program. At the time, IRMC CEO Steve Wolfe said the hospital was looking to create more residency programs to attract recent medical school graduates, who would learn about rural medicine during their three years as IRMC medical residents.
But the behavioral health center would also play an important role in the Indiana community, according to a briefing by IRMC director of marketing and public relations Mark Richards.
“Indiana County and surrounding regions are critically underserved in healthcare, and even more so in mental health care,” the document reads. “The population in the service area has limited access to primary care and uses the emergency room and urgent care for many of their needs. Drug addiction, poverty and unemployment create unique challenges for providers who are not positioned to deal with publicly funded Medical Assistance recipients or uninsured patients.”
The document outlined the importance of integrating mental and physical health care for better health outcomes among patients living in the region, especially after the influx of patients IRMC has received since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. in 2020.
“Behavioral health is the number one transfer of most emergency departments throughout our region,” the document said. “This new company will help keep more patients, families and loved ones closer to home while they solve various problems. It will help reduce costs, length of stay and staff burnout at many other hospitals because we all struggle with mental health patient placement.”