New safe spaces create a calmer environment for behavioral health patients.

Image courtesy of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

The number of behavioral health patients visiting the emergency department (ED) at Indiana University Health’s IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital has more than doubled in the last few years. In 2012, the ED experienced 1,560 behavioral patients with an average length of stay of 9.5 hours. In 2018, nearly 2,800 behavioral patients had an average length of stay of 14 hours.

To better care for those patients, IU Health Ball Memorial recently underwent renovations to create a comprehensive, safe environment for behavioral health patients. The new area consists of behavioral health safe rooms that protect patient privacy, provide increased safety for team members and offer a better overall patient experience.

Before the behavioral health safe rooms were complete, the Ball ED had a typical psych patient census of four rooms plus four hall beds. These rooms and beds were located in the main hub of the ED, where there is significant activity and often a noisy environment.

Since the five behavioral health safe rooms have opened — all clustered together and located away from the ED hub — the hospital has been able to create a calmer environment that minimizes the need for intervention and de-escalation.

Other improvements to the new space include:

  • Team member safety.
  • Enclosed nurses’ station.
  • Ligature-resistant rooms.
  • Drop-down doors.
  • Solid ceilings.
  • Reinforced drywall.
  • Tempered glass.
  • 360-degree cameras with robust video monitoring system.
  • Stryker series behavioral health beds that are designed for a longer length of stay.
  • Built-in monitoring systems with alarms.
  • Wireless call light systems.

Safety improvements will continue this year with the installation of a team member duress system. Preferred behavioral health care rooms or secure holding areas — designed to mitigate risk to behavioral health patients — are in or near several EDs within the health system. One location has a suite of behavioral health care rooms adjacent to the ED.