Treating mental illness: New wing of care to fill growing need

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Hospitalization for psychiatric patients, while possible at Trident Medical Center, isn't easy, according to hospital officials.

"We only have a holding area," explains psychiatrist Dr. Yevgeniy Gelfand. "It's a part of the emergency room, and we hold up to ten or 11 patients in one area of the hospital, as well as some people who are in the emergency room."

Trident Health's CEO Todd Gallati says there's a tight situation with in-patient beds. That's why the hospital often has to refer mental health patients to MUSC, Colleton Medical Center or even farther.

"What we've seen over the past years has been a reduction in in-patients beds throughout the state, and that has put a lot of pressure on our emergency departments."

Gelfand says while a bed may open up for a psychiatric patient in the emergency room, he says it can be unsafe to keep them waiting.

"There are a lot of people who have claustrophobia problems. They don't also like to be with other people who have social anxiety issues, not to mention the lack of privacy that you sometimes have."

The new wing will house 18 beds and doctors say allow them to give extensive care as with any other illness.

"People will be titrated on medications. They will be monitored. They will be provided a safe place to be for the crisis that got them in the hospital to resolve."

The cost of the new wing is $6 million. Construction will begin on March 1st and is expected to be completed in six months.