Hundreds of people in North Carolina each day are waiting inside hospital emergency departments for behavioral health care. One reason is that a real-time list of operational beds isn’t available, which makes it difficult to connect people in emergency departments to care in more appropriate settings. To address the growing behavioral health crisis, the NC Department of Health and Human Services launched a new tool to help hospitals and other providers quickly find an open bed where people can get the behavioral health treatment they deserve.
BH SCAN is an online centralized bed registry with a daily inventory of available beds to help providers more efficiently find and refer people to appropriate treatment with the potential to reduce long stays in emergency departments. This comes at a time when one in five individuals are experiencing a behavioral health issue in North Carolina.
“In a moment of crisis, individuals and their families need help to find their way to the care they need quickly,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “A centralized bed tracking system helps patients find providers faster and helps us understand how precious bed resources are being used across the state — it’s one of the many investments we’re making in North Carolina’s behavioral health and resilience. One of my top three priorities is to invest in behavioral health and resilience as we move forward from the pandemic, and this new resource is one solution of many needed to get people the care they need.”
Finding an appropriate bed based on a patient’s diagnosis, medical needs and security needs can be complicated and time intensive. Emergency departments are one of many sources of referrals for inpatient care and often have the most critical patients in need of immediate behavioral health treatment.
“We are really excited about the potential of BH SCAN and appreciate the partnership with our hospitals and other crisis service providers,” said Kelly Crosbie MSW, LCSW, Director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Use Services at NCDHHS. “People need timely access to inpatient care and hospitals need to be able to free up their emergency departments for others in crisis.”
This web-based application allows referring facilities to search for an appropriate and available inpatient behavioral bed based on multiple search criteria including demographics, acuity, commitment status and location. BH SCAN will allow for a statewide view of inpatient psychiatric resources to help inform policy and resource allocation. Eventually, it will be enhanced to allow for streamlined referrals to maximize efficiency in busy emergency departments. Ultimately, more operational beds are needed to address the growing demand for behavioral health care, and this system will help ensure the best use of resources in the interim.
BH SCAN is available to providers and staff at facilities who routinely encounter behavioral health patients in crisis and to facilities that can assess and treat these individuals.