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Altru sees steady increase of behavioral health admissions since pandemic

The number of behavioral health inpatient admissions at Altru last year was 651 compared to 583 in 2020. Altru is on track to see more than 700 admissions this year

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GRAND FORKS – The number of behavioral health inpatient admissions at Grand Forks-based Altru Health System was up last year at 651 admissions, compared to 583 in 2020.

Chief Nursing Officer Janice Hamscher said Altru is on track to see more than 700 behavioral health admissions this year.

In Altru’s behavioral health outpatient clinic, admissions have also been up. Hamscher said there has been a 19% increase in visits this year, with some providers booking appointments between three to 12 months out.

The rise in inpatient and outpatient admissions at Altru has heightened the need for access to mental health care in the community.

“We understand there is an urgent need for mental health care and are constantly evaluating ways to improve access,” Hamscher said. “We have an enduring commitment to caring for our family, friends and neighbors in our communities.”

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Other than the COVID-19 pandemic having taken a toll on mental health, Hamscher said other factors play a role as well, leading to the greater need for behavioral health services. Societal pressures create increased stress as well as financial pressures, such as rising inflation and food insecurity.

Chief Medical Officer Josh Deere said the Grand Forks region is facing shortages, just like the rest of the nation.

“Much like the rest of the nation, our region is experiencing shortages in key areas resulting in a need for behavioral health care,” Deere said. “Our Altru team is leading efforts to expand care in northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota through exploring our options with Universal Health Services. As we evaluate a potential partnership with UHS, our focus is on increasing high-quality behavioral health care offerings to our region.”

Altru announced last month that it is planning to work with UHS on a new inpatient behavioral health facility in Grand Forks, as the two groups have signed a letter of intent for the project. Jeff Herman, group CEO, behavioral health, UHS, and Altru CEO Todd Forkel both shared their excitement for the collaboration in the announcement and how it will address the demand for improved access to high-quality mental health care in the region.

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The clinic has one of the only multidisciplinary teams designated for autism treatment in the state, including social workers, a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a physical therapist and a pediatrician.

Altru currently provides outpatient psychiatry services, an outpatient treatment program and inpatient acute care. Altru’s emergency department is equipped to care for anyone in an immediate acute situation when someone is a threat to themselves.

With the rise in mental health needs, Deere said there is more discussion on mental health in society.

“As people are speaking more openly about this issue, it may be encouraging for some people to get help who otherwise wouldn’t,” Deere said. “Both locally and nationally there are many prominent mental health advocates calling for increased mental health services. As a health system dedicated to caring for one another, we are purposeful in our pledge to expand this type of care.”

Related Topics: ALTRU
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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