Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro opens unique Crisis Stabilization Unit for patients in need of psychiatric intervention

October 31, 2017

Lauded by experts as a model for Los Angeles County, the new outpatient behavioral health unit at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro will open Wednesday to provide immediate care for patients suffering mental health crises.

The new unit is a 5,000-square-foot freestanding outpatient unit to treat psychiatric patients for up to 23 hours, once they have been cleared in a hospital Emergency Department.

“There is a critical shortage of beds for psychiatric patients in Los Angeles County, and this can lead to long waits for patients in crisis. This new unit will provide immediate psychiatric intervention in a welcoming, comfortable therapeutic environment,” said Scott Zeller, M.D., an emergency psychiatrist, who helped develop the program.

Dr. Zeller, internationally recognized as an innovator in emergency psychiatry, was instrumental in creating CEP America’s Crisis Stabilization program, the nation’s first combining emergency medicine and emergency psychiatry through partnerships with hospitals. CEP America physicians contract with hospitals to staff emergency departments.

The San Pedro center, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, will provide patients with the expertise of a  team of board-certified emergency psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and security personnel. After-hours, psychiatrists will be available through telemedicine to manage consultations and intake services.

Providence Health & Services is committed to expanding behavioral health services across the communities it serves. The founding Sisters of Providence recognized this need and in 1863 opened the St. John of God Lunatic Asylum in Vancouver, Wash., the forerunner of Washington State Hospital. Over more than a century-and-a-half, care and treatment of those with mental illness has changed immensely, and today 70 percent of patients treated in a crisis stabilization unit are able to avoid hospital admission and can be safely discharged, with follow-up. 

For patients who do require admission, Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro operates a 24-bed adult inpatient psychiatric unit and has links to other inpatient facilities throughout the county. 

Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro developed the outpatient program in part because patients with psychiatric diagnoses can wait three times as long in Emergency Departments for a bed. Furthermore, the environment in emergency care often exacerbates a patient’s agitation.

The Providence California Care Management team will work with the five other Providence hospitals in the Los Angeles Area – as well as other hospitals – to facilitate transfers of patients from their emergency departments to the new unit. This team will follow up on each patients’ care and provide a list of community-based services to support safe discharge from the program.