Monday, May 28, 2012

Green Light for Bronx Hospital Expansion

A state Department of Health planning committee approved a $5.3 million expansion of the city-run Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx. In May 2011 the Health and Hospitals Corp. had submitted a certificate of need to build a 30-bed, 12,000-square-foot expansion on the top floor of the 10-story hospital at 234 East149th Street.

Mental health advocates say the city is experiencing a shortage of inpatient psychiatric services thanks in part to the closure of three local hospitals. Cabrini Medical Center closed in 2008, and in 2010 St. Vincent's Hospital went under, as did North General Hospital's acute-care facility in East Harlem.

The units will be earmarked for adult psychiatric patients, according to the Health and Hospitals Corp, something advocates say the city sorely needs.

Since 2010, Bellevue Hospital created a round-the-clock psychiatric unit for children and expanded its children's psychiatric ward. Also in 2010, the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Office of Children and Family Services unveiled a program in Brooklyn for youth with mental health problems.

With this approval, the larger Lincoln center would double the hospital's capacity to 60 beds. The hospital estimates that it needs between 47 and 57 beds in order to operate at an 85% level.

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-July and end by December. The costs include $3.2 million for construction and $1.3 million for renovation and demolition. The project will be funded by a HEAL-NY Phase 18 grant.

There are currently 2,929 psychiatric beds in New York City's public and private hospitals, and another 282 in private mental health facilities.

Advocates for the mentally ill say that demand has long been growing and that adding 30 beds does not go far enough. According to a 2010 report from Arlington, Va.-based Treatment Advocacy Center, a mentally ill patient in New York is more likely to end up in jail than in a hospital. The center estimated the state is short 4,300 psychiatric beds.