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North Central Health Care gearing up to open new Youth Behavioral Health Hospital

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 7:06 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - After three years of planning and construction, North Central Health Care is putting the finishing touches on its new Youth Behavioral Health Hospital with the plan for doors to open for the first time October 20.

“There’s nothing like it here in central Wisconsin,” explained CEO Michael Loy. “We’re one of the few in the state of Wisconsin that provides this level of care and one of the only county-based systems that provide this level of care.”

The new 8-bedroom facility will be available for youth aged 13 to 17 needing stabilization or in-patient psychiatric level care. With numerous other programs in place, an anticipated five to seven-night stay at the hospital is what Loy calls “the most intensive level of mental health care that you can be receiving.”

“They (kids) are going to come in predominantly because they’re a harm to themselves or others,” Loy said. “We’ll be able to stabilize them and then connect them to resources upon discharge to hopefully stay in the community as a one time stay here as a part of our psychiatric services.”

Loy says the closes facility like this in the state is in Appleton. NCHC looked at maps of different facilities around the country when determining what was needed for the new hospital, as well as using some of its own data.

“We looked at the data of the youth that we’re sending to other state institutes that needed that level of care, and it’s anywhere between four to six on an average day,” Loy explained. “We thought an 8-bed unit should be more than adequate to cover our needs, again, with the predominant focus of providing a more expansive, community-based level of care.”

The new hospital is at the far end of what is a much broader range of mental health services that NCHC will be providing for communities in Lincoln, Langlade, and Marathon County.

“This program is going to be on one far end of the treatment continuum,” said Loy. “We have a number of other programs throughout the continuum all the way to providing care in schools and then people’s homes. Our goal is to fill that continuum of care out as much as possible and then be able to get people the right level of care at the right time, and then help them navigate the levels of care that are available to them in this community.”

The staff at NCHC just as excited about the new project as their leader.

“We’re ready to provide this service in the community and are looking forward to it,” beamed Erica Huffman, Youth Behavioral Health Director at NCHC. “It’s not just a huge undertaking and an important undertaking, but it’s also one that, you’re not going to see something like this in other areas.”

Huffman says that there is some added pressure opening and operating a facility that is the first of its kind in central Wisconsin but says the team NCHC has assembled is more than up to the task.

“Myself and my team say that we’re the best people to handle that pressure, that we feel like North Central Health Care is already behavioral health experts and this is a place where we should be extending ourselves; we should be setting the standard,” said Huffman. “We have to have an eye for continuous improvement, that even if we’re not perfect on day one, we’re going to keep getting better on day two and day 200.”

Loy adding that a slow opening is expected to help everyone get on the same page early so that the programs can wear effectively, adding that once the facility is up to speed, there’s a chance for NCHC to extend its services as far north as the Michigan border.

“We want to open up and only have a couple of youth here initially,” added Loy. “We need to learn the processes, the flows but more than anything, we need to keep our patients and our staff safe. We’re going to open slow and our goal is to get up to an average census of six, but we’re putting a very important resource in the whole new ecosystem of care in our communities. That involves a lot of people as a part of the process; schools, other healthcare providers and we need to be able to work together and move kids through this continuum of care and that’s going to take some time and patience for us to get that right.”

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