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Construction begins on Virginia's first emPATH unit at Centra

Published on Wednesday January 11, 2023

The groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction on the Commonwealth's first emPATH unit took place Friday, September 23 at Centra’s Lynchburg General Hospital. The unit is a collaboration between Centra's departments of Emergency Services and Psychiatry/Behavioral Health as a response to the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The CHNA identified mental health among the top health concerns affecting the communities of Central Virginia.

EmPATH, which stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing, is a new method of care that addresses long-standing challenges for Emergency Department patients with behavioral health issues. The unit helps eliminate isolation and extended wait times typically experienced by placing patients in a shared, open area where Caregivers, behavioral health experts and other patients interact and support one another. There are approximately 100 units across the United States.

Centra has spent the last ten months researching and planning for the project. In August, the pioneer behind emPATH, Dr. Scott Zeller, visited Centra. During his visit, he met with key stakeholders from Centra and behavioral health partners from the community. He spent time addressing questions, educating on the benefits of emPATH and advising leaders on best practices.

The project is fueled by a $1M anonymous gift from a grateful patient. The Centra Foundation has committed to funding the transformation, including construction and initial operating expenses.

The construction of the unit, located within Lynchburg General Hospital's Emergency Department, is expected to be complete and operating by mid 2023.