Jul 12, 2011 12:05 AM by Matt Stafford

Beds hard to come by for local psychiatric patients

Providing help to those with mental illness is a daunting task in the Pikes Peak region. Emergency rooms are swamped because, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows, Colorado is dead last in the country when it comes to in-patient bed space.

"If you add Washington D.C. into the mix we're 51st," says Lacey Berumen, executive director of the National Alliance on Metal Illness of Colorado. "Statistically, 1 in 4 people have a serious mental health issue at one point in their life."

Based on the latest census figures more than a million people in Colorado alone will eventually need some kind of mental health assistance.

"We don't have beds for the need," says Berumen.

So where do the patients with no place to go end up?

"Our biggest area of growth has frankly been our emergency department where we are seeing, in some cases, over 115 patients a day, and a large and larger percentage of that volume is patients with mental behavioral health needs," explains Mark Hartman, vice president of operations for St. Francis Medical Center.

The same is true for hospitals across the country, so St. Francis is happy to have a new neighbor coming in -- Peak View Behavioral Health's new 92-bed psychiatric hospital.

"When we got here first, about three and a half years ago, there were no geriatric psychiatric beds for half a million folks living here," explains Jim Shaheen, founder and president of Strategic Behavioral Health, which is the parent company for Peak View.

Administrators broke ground Monday on the new 13 million dollar facility. They're planning spaces for the older patients, as well as kids and adults.

It won't be enough room for everyone, but it's a start.

Peak View is expecting to employ about 250 people to run the facility; paying out about ten million dollars a year in salaries.



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