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NCDHHS introduces bed registry to better assist behavioral health patients

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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dorothea Dix campus, located in Raleigh, is pictured on Aug. 26, 2022.

On Jan. 31, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services introduced a new online hospital bed registry in an effort to reduce wait times for behavioral health patients.

The registry is called the Behavioral Health Statewide Central Availability Navigator (BH SCAN).

BH SCAN displays a list of available operational beds in behavioral health facilities across North Carolina. Providers may use BH SCAN to efficiently find and refer behavioral health patients to appropriate facilities for their treatment needs.

Behavioral health generally refers to mental health and substance use disorders and crises, among other conditions.

BH SCAN also allows referring providers and hospitals to search for available inpatient beds based on specific search criteria, such as demographics, commitment status and location.

“We hope it cuts down on all the administrative burden of care managers, hospitals, trying to find beds,” Kelly Crosbie, the director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Use Services for the NCDHHS, said. “But more importantly, we hope it cuts down the amount of time people wait in emergency departments.”

The NCDHHS launched BH SCAN in response to the behavioral health crisis in North Carolina, according to a press release. 

“We don’t want people languishing in emergency departments. If they need critical inpatient care, we would like to get them in an available bed as soon as possible,” Crosbie said.

The registry will be available to facilities that encounter, assess and treat behavioral health patients suffering a crisis, including emergency departments, psychiatric inpatient hospitals and behavioral health urgent care centers. 

Care managers will also be able to access BH SCAN in order to make patient referrals. 

The system will partner with 99 hospitals, crisis facilities and other healthcare providers, including the Atrium Health Behavioral Health facilities, Novant Health Medical Centers and WakeMed hospitals. 

The Cape Fear Valley Health Behavioral Health Care Inpatient Unit and Medical Center is among these facilities. 

John Bigger, the corporate director of Behavioral Health Services for Cape Fear Valley Health, said BH SCAN has made Cape Fear Valley facilities’ ability to receive and create referrals for behavioral health patients more straightforward.

“The longer amount of time that people spend sitting in emergency rooms waiting for placement, the tougher it is on their outcome,” he said.

He also said providers within the Cape Fear Valley Health System have received BH SCAN with excitement, and they believe the tool will support their clinical decision-making regarding referrals. 

Amber Coffey, a community member and former peer support specialist, said she would like to see an expansion of strategies addressing better community mental health. 

“It made me a little angry because I’ve worked extensively in the field, and I know the lack of services that are available to individuals in a mental health or substance use crisis,” she said. “So, just seeing there’s a registry to find beds to me does nothing to fix any of the problems I’ve seen firsthand.”

She also said from her time working at UNC in a case management program called the Critical Time Intervention initiative, she became aware of evidence-based practices to support community mental health, such as assertive community treatment. 

According to the UNC School of Medicine, assertive community treatment equips an individual with a comprehensive support team of mental health professionals. They share the goal of assisting clients/patients in receiving medication and appropriate care.

In addition to BH SCAN, if someone dials the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a mobile crisis team consisting of behavioral health professionals will respond and help stabilize individuals suffering a crisis. They will also offer follow-up check-ins. 

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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