Tufts Medicine and Acadia Healthcare announced plans to construct a $65 million behavioral health hospital at the site of the former Malden Hospital, an addition that officials say will help address the state’s ongoing behavioral health crisis.
The 144-bed hospital, scheduled to open in two and a half years, will generate 86 additional beds for the state, with Tufts planning to relocate 58 inpatient behavioral health beds from Lawrence Memorial and MelroseWakefield Healthcare, which are both under the Tufts Medicine umbrella.
Tufts Medicine will donate the land to the transaction, 9.5 acres of which will be preserved as community space. Acadia, a Tennessee-based for-profit behavioral health care system, will run and operate the facility. The two organizations will share governance, and Tufts expects to receive 30 to 35 percent of the revenue.
“One of the things we like about Acadia is they serve the Medicaid population,” said David Storto, executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer of Tufts Medicine. “They are amongst the most accessible [to patients with different insurance plans].”
The behavioral health hospital is one of several similar facilities being planned or opened throughout the state. This week, Cambridge Health Alliance opened a new Center for Inpatient Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, which ultimately will increase its child psychiatric beds from 27 to 69 and add a unit for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. The health system is also in the process of adding more adult psychiatric beds, which will grow from 64 to 86.
South Shore Health is also partnering with Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Signature Healthcare Corp. in Brockton, and Southeast Massachusetts Behavioral Health LLC, a subsidiary of New York-based national behavioral health company US HealthVest, to construct a new psychiatric hospital in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Several state and elected officials praised the Tufts announcement, which comes as the behavioral health crisis has caused patients to board for days in emergency departments waiting for a bed. According to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, in the last month, between 650 and 750 patients were waiting in Massachusetts emergency departments because of too few inpatient psychiatric beds.
“In Massachusetts, and across the nation, the impact of Covid-19 has resulted in more individuals seeking emergency psychiatric care, including inpatient treatment.” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, in a statement to the Globe. “This expansion will help address critical behavioral health capacity needs.”
Yet new inpatient psychiatric beds won’t be a panacea to the ongoing behavioral health crisis.
David Matteodo, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, said the state already has capacity for close to 3,000 licensed inpatient psychiatric beds. Yet only 2,300 can be used because of staffing shortages and issues with patients who are too volatile to share a room.
Staffing demands go beyond just inpatient care, but also the need to staff more outpatient services, including therapy. The state has put resources toward creating outpatient capacity and has set aside funding to offer loan forgiveness to entice more people to enter the field. Creating outpatient capacity, and staffing it, is as critical as building new inpatient beds, Matteodo said.
“We need to do both,” Matteodo said.
Hospitals focused on building inpatient beds say it is part of a comprehensive solution to the state’s crisis. Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Dr. Assaad Sayah said in addition to adding inpatient beds, the health system is adding outpatient programs, integrating behavioral health into the primary care practice, and increasing social work.
He added that, despite the nationwide staffing crunch, the hospital was phasing in new beds as it finds the necessary staffing, and said thanks to its unionized workforce and competitive wages, the health system was having success in finding the necessary people.
Isa Diaz, senior vice president of strategic affairs for Acadia Healthcare, said many of the 100 behavioral health staff from Tufts Medicine would move to the new facility, and that Acadia had expertise in recruiting staff across the country at its 238 facilities in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
“The commitment has been to make this a teaching hospital. We’re hoping we can bring unique training programs that will attract a lot of top talent,” Diaz said.
Local officials said the Tufts addition also answered several community needs. A 2019/2020 Everett-Malden community health needs assessment report found that both communities had higher rates of youth depression, higher age-adjusted rates of opioid-related mortality, substance-related mortality, opioid-related ED visits, and total drug overdose hospitalizations than the state. Malden’s mental health-related mortality rates were also higher than the state average.
“Our own health department has repeatedly told us this is one of the greatest needs they see, especially at the pediatric level,” Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said.