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Oregon's first dedicated psychiatric emergency facility to open January 2017

Unity Center Opening
A large delegation cuts a ribbon at the grand opening ceremony for the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland, January 5, 2017. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Oregon’s first and only psychiatric specific emergency room, the Unity Center for Behavioral Health, is scheduled to open later this month, improving care for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The $40 million center is a collaborative effort among Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health and OHSU. The innovative model is designed to help patients access immediate attention, allowing for better outcomes and reduced risk of hospitalization.

“The intricate partnership of so many organizations means that patients will receive timely care and the tools and the resources they need to safely return to our communities throughout the state,” said Gov. Kate Brown during her remarks at a ribbon cutting Thursday, Jan. 5.

In each of their remarks, representatives of the founding health care systems acknowledged the challenges and benefits of the joint venture.

“We are competitors who've learned how to get the best out of competition and collaboration,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A.

Unity Center Opening
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (left) looks around a patient room during a tour at the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony program for the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland, January 5, 2017. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

The 24-hour facility combines psychiatric emergency care with short-term inpatient services, serving walk-in patients as well as those arriving by ambulance. Patients arriving at the center will be evaluated by a psychiatrist and stabilized. Outpatient services allow observation of patients for up to 23 hours. The goal is to avoid hospitalization whenever possible.

The facility, which offers 80 adult and 22 adolescent (aged 9 to 18) short-stay acute care beds, was designed to support patients. The “living room” concept and common areas are designed to create a calm and welcoming environment and features reclining chairs, a café, chapel, outdoor space and eight “calming rooms."

The clinic also offers access to peer wellness specialists who have experienced mental illness themselves, and can help support others as they receive treatment.

Once stabilized, patients work with support staff to create a longer-term treatment plan to support their needs.

“Today is just the beginning. This is a new concept and it is not a panacea,” George J. Brown, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Legacy Health. “But you need to know that we will build and strengthen the partnerships that exist. We will continue to work to become a model that others follow. And we will continue to improve the lives of people who unfortunately have to experience behavioral and mental health illness.”


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