At M Health Fairview in Minnesota, we’ve created a unique approach to emergency mental health care by using thoughtful design with evidence-based techniques. This pioneering new treatment model offers rapid, comprehensive care services in a calming environment and is improving care and outcomes for people with mental health issues.
EmPATH — or Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing — is designed to guide patients safely through a current crisis while building coping skills that will guide them through future challenges. Though it just opened in March, this unit is moving emergency mental health care in a new and exciting direction.
A Patient-Centric Model that Balances Safety and Patient Empowerment
EmPATH is a different approach to emergency mental health care. Everything — from the unit design to the evidence-based techniques our providers use — puts patients first.
The EmPATH approach is intended to address emergency mental health needs and improve patient outcomes. To accomplish this, each EmPATH is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of mental health specialists, including psychiatrists, licensed therapists and psychiatric nurses.
This approach gives each person space and time to calm themselves as our care team begins meeting their treatment needs.
After a short medical evaluation, patients come to EmPATH’s calming, living-room-style environment: a shared, open space equipped with comfortable recliners and self-serve refreshment stations. When they arrive, patients have access to tablet computers equipped to provide guided meditation, therapeutic programs and nontriggering entertainment options. This approach gives each person space and time to calm themselves as our care team begins meeting their treatment needs.
The EmPATH service also features four sensory rooms with special lighting and sounds or music, all of which can be controlled by the patient. The unit’s innovative format and design give the mental health team the opportunity to better assess patients across time. And we’re finding the sensory rooms help patients adopt new coping skills. The unit offers a comfortable, soothing and healing environment for patients, who feel more like guests.
All patients discharged from the EmPATH have an appointment with an outpatient provider prescheduled. Whenever possible, these appointments are set within 72 hours of discharge from EmPATH following a consult with the existing or new provider. If an appointment cannot be scheduled within 72 hours, an interim appointment is scheduled with our Transition Clinic to help the patient avoid a reescalation of the crisis or symptoms. All patients receive a caring contact via telephone after being discharged from EmPATH and before their first outpatient care appointment.
Design That Enhances a Commitment to Mental Health Care
M Health Fairview is deeply committed to caring for the mental health and addiction needs of the Upper Midwest region. EmPATH will supplement, not replace, other types of mental health care.
“The space itself is a vital part of the care. The open layout and calming atmosphere stand in contrast to hectic emergency departments,” said Richard Levine, M.D., M Health Fairview’s medical director of adult behavioral outpatient services and an emergency medicine physician and psychiatrist. “The design enhances our emergency mental health care and allows our care teams to do what they do best — focus on mental health and well-being.”
Our first EmPATH service — and the first in Minnesota — is located at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital. Future pediatric and adult EmPATH services are planned for M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Lewis Zeidner, Ph.D., is system director, clinical triage and transition services, at M Health Fairview.