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Baxter Regional Medical Center responds to community need.
BILLY JEAN LOUIS

Twin Lakes Area patients age 18 to 55 seeking psychiatric care are being shipped to bigger cities, like Little Rock, Fayetteville and Springfield.

Baxter Regional Medical Center (BRMC) took note of that. The hospital’s CEO and President, Ron Peterson, said his team has located an area to build a 20-bed psychiatry unit.

The team is looking at getting construction started toward the end of the year, with plans to have the facility in operation by the first quarter of next year.

“It’s coming,” Peterson said. “It’s probably sixth months away, but it’s coming.”

Currently, the hospital boasts an inpatient geriatric psychiatry unit named the Hensley Behavioral Health Center, which takes care of patients above 55. That unit treats a variety of health problems, but mostly it takes care of patients with dementia and behavioral problems related to the disease and a fair number of patients with severe depression.

Peterson identified the need to have an additional behavioral unit based on BRMC’s need study and the conversations he had with community members. 

The adult psychiatric unit  — which will cost around $1.3 million — will be located at the hospital, serving 30 to 40 patients monthly who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, have drug and alcohol problems and more.

A nationwide search for providers has been launched. BRMC has received applications specifically from the region: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The biggest challenge in starting the unit is making sure there’s a consistency with providers when it’s open, Peterson argued.

“That’s exactly what kept us from not pursuing this earlier,” he said. “But we feel like we’re getting extremely close right now to having providers.”

Recruitment of personnel in the healthcare field is getting more and more difficult, he stressed, whether it’s physicians or nurses.

“It has to be a good fit for them,” Peterson said. “It has to be a good fit for us.”

Tom Foster, Medical Director for the Hensley Behavioral Health Center, is helping with the development of the adult psychiatric unit.  

Foster said the lack of an adult unit creates “a lot of” difficulty for patients. They’re having to travel hours to another hospital, he said, and that’s much more difficult…