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Mercy Hospital Expands Capacity for Mental Health Patients

Durrie Bouscaren
Iowa Public Radio
There are no corners in the new inpatient units at Mercy Medical Center, as a safety measure.

Mercy Medical Center is expanding its capacity to treat people for short term mental health emergencies on its Des Moines campus. The nearly $12 million project moves the behavioral health treatment center from a separate facility, to take up two floors of the hospital’s west building.

Dr. Sasha Khostravi directs the unit for children and teens. Often—he says—there aren’t enough psychiatric beds to meet demand. The average stay in the inpatient facility is three days.

"Oh a weekly basis I hear a child cannot be placed. They often go to an actual medical floor or intensive care unit until a bed can be identified," Khostravi said. 

Often—Khostravi says patients may wait in the emergency room for more than 24 hours before they can be placed. 

Medical director, Dr. James Dennert, says the new units, which consist of two floors in the hospital’s West building, will be a significant improvement over the aging Franklin Center a few miles away.

"We’ll be able to separate patients by severity of illness… so those patients that are severely ill, manic, intrusive, can be kept in one area," Dennert said.

By moving the units to the hospital’s main campus, operations officials say they’ll also save money by reducing transport costs for mental health patients who require other hospital services.