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CRMC’s Behavioral Health Unit renovation aims for patient safety

Dr. Carlos Rueda, left, Dr. Gerard Galarneau and Scott Batulis cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the newly renovated Behavioral Health Unit at CRMC.
TRR photo by Carol Montanna

By Carol Montana
October 23, 2013

A complete renovation and name change has come to the former mental health unit of the Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC).

During an open house on October 16, CRMC’s staff and members of the media were treated to tours and a ribbon cutting for phase one of the newly renovated fourth-floor Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).

According to CRMC’s CEO and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gerard Galarneau, the plan for the renovation started 10 months ago when the Greater Hudson Valley Health System (GHVHS) Board of Directors’ performance improvement team met to come up with visions, goals and objectives for 2013. “One of those goals was to improve and focus on the care we’re delivering to our mental health patients. This renovation is the first step toward achieving those goals... We had a choice, but our first choice was to protect our most vulnerable patients,” said Galarneau.

Jan Calhoun, BHU clinical director and administrative director of nursing, led the tour showing off the features of the renovation designed to protect the patients. The entire unit is anti-ligature, Calhoun explained. There are no doorknobs, no extended faucets, showerheads or handles for patients to hang things from.

Even the photos on the wall are put on with a special adhesive, and are not in frames that can be used to hurt someone. The photos are calm and serene. According to GHVHS Art Curator Sarah Johnson, “We look for a palette of earthy colors that have been proven through evidence-based research to have a healing and calming effect on patients.”

The nurse’s station has no glass, and will, when the final renovations are done to the rest of the unit, go through from one hallway to the other. “The open concept,” says Calhoun, “promotes interaction between staff and patients. All of the features, the lighting, the door locks, the colors, are recommended by the New York State Office of Mental Health. Everything is approved for safety and healing.”

Come December, when the rest of the unit is fully renovated, each patient will have his or her own private room. The unit is currently at its capacity of 18 beds and some patients share rooms with others.

Director of Strategic Planning for GHVHS, Jean-Paul Vallet, said the $1.8 million cost of renovating the entire unit came from a Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law Grant (HEAL Two) from NYS Dept of Health.

“We’re doing one floor at a time,” said Scott Batulis, President & CEO of GHVHS. “It’s a very exciting time. We’re looking at an early 2014 remodel for the second floor, and we plan on having 82% private rooms for all units when we’re all done.”