Behavioral health hospital nears completion

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-25-2023 4:35 PM

HOLYOKE — Construction of a $72 million behavioral health hospital at the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority property on Lower Westfield Road is expected to wrap up in about a month, officials announced this week.

When the 150-bed Valley Springs Behavioral Health Hospital — a joint venture between Baystate Health and Lifepoint Behavioral Health — opens on Aug. 15, officials say it will increase capacity for inpatient behavioral health care for adults, children and adolescents in western Massachusetts by 50%.

Behavioral health services from Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Noble Hospital, as well as pediatric behavioral health services from Baystate Medical Center, will begin to transition to Valley Springs in August. The existing spaces in those facilities will then be converted to primary and specialty care or will be used to accommodate the increasing demand for inpatient medical services.

Baystate officials, however, reversed an earlier decision to close Greenfield’s 22-bed mental health unit at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, as part of the consolidation plan. They announced this week that the Franklin County unit would stay open, news that was met with relief by local nurses and mental health care advocates.

“It’s honestly a really big relief that people in Greenfield are still going to be able to get mental health care at the local facility,” said Suzanne Love, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Baystate Franklin. “It’s serving the community; it’s what the community needs.”

The move to keep a mental health care option available in Greenfield was based on geography and Baystate Franklin’s “strong history of integration of behavioral health services,” such as the 24/7 presence of recovery coaches in the Emergency Department, according to Baystate Health President Ronald Bryant.

“Baystate Franklin has spent many years building strength in behavioral health practices that really connect with a lot of the other types of care provided,” Bryant said in a statement. “We didn’t want to lose the continuity of that integration.”

As a triage nurse in the Emergency Department, Love said she often meets people who come in seeking mental health care. And while they may be willing to go somewhere else, Baystate Franklin is their first choice.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Holyoke man finds bear paw in his yard
Developer lands $400K loan for affordable housing project in Easthampton mill district
Petition to block auto dealership on King Street falters in Northampton
Fearful Belchertown residents blame stray bullets on nearby gun club, appeal to town for help
South Hadley man fatally shot in attempted robbery
First look at how little Amherst’s police alternative being used called troubling

Donna Stern, a registered nurse in the mental health unit at Baystate Franklin, said in a statement that she is glad to know people in the Greenfield area will continue to have access to inpatient mental health services close to home.

“The potential closure of our mental health unit would have made it harder for patients to access quality care, recover close to their loved ones and connect with local resources,” she said.

Valley Springs

Baystate Health officials describe Valley Springs as a state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital.

In addition to an abundance of natural light, the hospital will include ample spaces for psychotherapy, rooms for art and occupational therapy, a gymnasium for physical activity and recreation, and access to outdoor spaces for fresh air.

“Psychiatric patients deserve to be treated in an environment of care that supports their dignity and we’re so pleased to be able to offer this,” Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health, said in a statement.

A new service offered by Valley Springs will be on-site evaluations following a provider referral, allowing some patients to be admitted without an Emergency Department visit at a different hospital.

Currently, around one-third of the behavioral health patients evaluated in Baystate Health’s Emergency Departments are transferred to facilities outside of western Massachusetts due to a shortage of psychiatric beds in the region. With the opening of Valley Springs, more patients will have the opportunity to receive treatment close to home.

Sarvet says that the new facility is a necessity given the shortage of inpatient psychiatric services in the region and the increasing mental health needs within the population.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.]]>