From: Susanne Smith, Winona
I am dismayed and sad to read that the Winona Health Department of Behavioral Medicine (DBM) Inpatient Unit is being closed. As a retired psychiatric nurse, nurse educator and former employee of DBM, I am very familiar with the important service that this unit has provided to our community. For more than 20 years I brought WSU nursing students to this unit for clinical rotations. I chose the unit because of the excellent nurse role models and the multidisciplinary team approach to mental health treatment. I also worked as part of that team as a staff nurse. I believe that the Winona has been fortunate to have this treatment program in our community. With a shortage of mental health services in the state and throughout the country, I am puzzled by the decision to close this service.
As I read the statements by Winona Health CEO Rachelle Schultz, I am confused about what the hospital is offering or planning to offer in terms of psychiatric/mental health treatment. Her October 16 editorial states that the hospital will continue to provide inpatient care, which she describes as a safe place to stay, an assessment and a discharge plan. DBM provided more than a safe place to stay when in a crisis. It was a structured multidisciplinary program providing psychiatric nursing care, therapy by a variety of counselors, psychoeducation, psychiatric assessment and medication management, and social service assessments and referrals. Members of the team worked together to do assessments and develop a discharge plan with the client. I do not understand how effective inpatient mental health treatment can be accomplished without a designated treatment program.
Throughout the country, there is an increased awareness of the need for mental health and psychiatric treatment resources. As Winona Health celebrates its 125 years of service to the community, it is disturbing to learn that the hospital is choosing to close the Department of Behavioral Medicine treatment program rather than promote and strengthen it.