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Centra In The News

Centra Schedules Opening of First emPATH Unit in Virginia

Published on Wednesday September 6, 2023

Centra plans to open the first emPATH Unit located in Virginia on September 12, 2023. EmPATH which stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing is a new approach to long standing care challenges for Emergency Department patients with behavioral health issues. 

In contrast to traditional care models, the emPATH Unit is thoughtfully designed to eliminate the sense of isolation and extended wait times often faced by patients. Within this innovative environment, patients find solace in a communal, open space where they can engage with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, behavioral health experts, and fellow patients for mutual support.

As demonstrated by the Community Health Needs Assessment conducted in 2021, mental health continues to rank among the top health concerns affecting communities across central Virginia. The emPATH Unit works to address this concern by providing a calming, comfortable space where behavioral health patients can be assessed and treated with the primary goal being to return the patient safely to their home with the support of outpatient services, their family and community resources. 

A key benefit of emPATH Units is that they help to reduce the need for extended Emergency Department stays or admittance for inpatient psychiatric care. The success of this model of care has been demonstrated by other healthcare systems. For instance, the emPATH Unit at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minnesota, achieved a remarkable 60% reduction in inpatient admissions for mental health patients during its inaugural year of operation.

Last year, Dr. Scott Zeller, who developed the emPATH model, 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. Currently, there are only around 100 of these units in the United States. 

The construction of the unit was made possible due to an anonymous $1 million donation from a grateful Centra patient. The donation is the largest single outright anonymous donation and among the largest gifts ever received by the Centra Foundation which has committed to funding the construction and initial operating expenses.