To address urgent need for psychiatric care in Maine, Acadia Hospital seeks to improve hospital’s facilities

Date: 06/11/2021

Northern Light Health announces a proposed upgrade and expansion of Northern Light Acadia Hospital’s adult and pediatric inpatient services to help address the urgent, growing need for psychiatric care in Maine. The project, which will create more private rooms at the 29-year-old facility, will improve statewide access to critically needed care at one of Maine’s two private psychiatric hospitals.

"Expanding access to care for some of Maine's sickest patients isn't a local issue. Sixty-three percent of Acadia Hospital's inpatient admissions come from outside Penobscot County," says Scott Oxley, Acadia Hospital president. "With the demand for inpatient psychiatric care increasing and our patients’ needs becoming more complex, now is the right time to move forward."

Acadia Hospital can serve more patients than it currently does within its existing number of licensed inpatient beds. However, the hospital cannot use all of its 100 beds due to the current configuration of the space. "The majority of our inpatient beds are semi-private rooms with two beds per room. This was a standard design for hospitals 30 years ago, but it no longer allows us to meet the community need of today," says John Campbell, MD, FANPA, vice president, senior physician executive, chief medical informatics officer at Acadia Hospital.

Some of Acadia Hospital’s patients require a single room resulting in one bed in that room becoming unusable. Dr. Campbell explains that every day at the hospital, between 20 and 25 beds are taken “out of service” for this reason. “This lack of available beds places undue strain on emergency departments which are often the only alternative for emergency psychiatric care. Psychiatric patients can sometimes spend days in emergency rooms waiting for beds.” 

In March of 2020, Acadia Hospital saw a nearly 50% spike from the previous year in the number of psychiatric consultations provided to its 17 partnering Maine hospital emergency rooms for crises, including suicidal behavior or attempts, self-harm, behavioral outbursts, anxiety, or substance use. Acadia Hospital’s Anthony Ng, MD, DFAPA, medical director of Community Services, says that "on any given day, we have 30 to 35 patients needing a psychiatric bed in these emergency rooms, half are children and adolescents. This is a challenging situation for hospital emergency rooms and patients who would benefit from admission to a psychiatric hospital without delay."

"These pressures are far from new," acknowledges Oxley, "but the pandemic has shined a light on the urgent need for us to lead the way toward a new future of behavioral and mental healthcare for Maine people." Oxley envisions the modernization project will provide a welcoming, modern, and therapeutic environment for patients, family members, and staff. "The construction of this highly functional space is one piece of a larger, holistic approach. We're also addressing the patient need through continued investment into Acadia's community-based programs to deliver care and education in schools, in places of work, in primary care offices, and more."

The design and planning process is underway, which includes Acadia Hospital seeking regulatory approval from the State of Maine. Community support will also play a key role in funding the project. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2022.