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Case Management Team at Mount Nittany Medical Center Helps Address Community’s Behavioral Health Needs

3 min read

In the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany Medical Center, case managers work alongside providers and staff to ensure patients receive the most timely, equitable, patient-centered care possible.

This team of 10 case managers cares for roughly 1,800 behavioral health patients each year, including approximately 225 children and adolescents, with the goal of improving access to screening, support, education, and treatment for individuals struggling with behavioral health problems.

According to Mount Nittany Health’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), behavioral health was identified as the most pressing concern for residents and the top missing community resource. Centre County youth are among the most likely to experience behavioral health concerns, with nearly 30% of Centre County youth reporting feeling consistently sad or depressed, with 7% having attempted suicide.

An analysis of data from the Emergency Department found that anxiety, depression, and unspecified mood disorders were the top diagnoses among behavioral health-related visits, and consistent with prior CHNA findings. Youth and young adults comprised about one-third to one-half of visits for these conditions.

Despite increasing behavioral health needs, Centre County has a deficit of behavioral health providers, which is why individuals facing a mental health crisis often find themselves in the Emergency Department. Thankfully, our team of providers, staff, and case managers are uniquely positioned to fill in the gap with these patients, keeping them safe and helping them obtain the care they need.

In a special unit of the Emergency Department there are four safe rooms designated for behavioral health patients. Each room, in addition to the bathroom in the area, is monitored for ligature risk. As an extra safety measure, security officers scan patients for contraband and help uphold special policies for visitors.

Each patient receives a full medical exam and clearance by one of our providers before they are given a comprehensive mental evaluation by a case manager. Evaluations are completed using behavioral health best practices to recommend next steps in treatment, whether inpatient or outpatient. Additionally, case managers provide therapeutic coping mechanisms like puzzles and coloring books, which help to calm the brain and relax the body.

Case managers often collaborate with primary care providers to establish a plan of care for the patient at discharge, but when inpatient care is needed, the team first looks to the Behavioral Health Unit at the Medical Center. The Behavioral Health Unit recently received the 2023 Press Ganey Human Experience (HX) Guardian of Excellence Award for being in the top 5% of healthcare providers delivering inpatient behavioral health care in the last year. When a room is not available, case management conducts a state-wide bed search, contacting between 40-50 different facilities on behalf of the patient, which can take several days.

“The case managers are an inspiration. They are tenacious, hardworking, and dedicated to the patients in both the ED and inpatient units. I am always amazed at their creativity, compassion, and unique approach for a positive outcome,” said Jacqueline Hahn, Director, Case Management, Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Although a small team, they care for each other in big ways.

“We are really good at supporting one another,” said Misty Knapp, MA, MFT, Case Management Supervisor, Emergency Department, Mount Nittany Medical Center. “We talk through difficult things and help each other when challenging issues arise. I can speak for all of us when I say that any time we’re able to get people the help they need, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

Please join us in recognizing this team for the important role they play in addressing the behavioral health needs of our community and for furthering our mission of, “Healthier people, stronger community.”