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Hospital closes mental care program

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Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital logo

ELKO — With the closure of the Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital Behavioral Health Unit, locals will have a hard time getting inpatient psychiatric care.

“(This was a) tough, tough decision, but the correct one given our extensive review and measured against the whole range of community mental health and substance abuse needs,” said hospital CEO Rick Palagi.

The 16-bed NNRH Behavioral Health Program opened in 2011 and has since been serving a very narrow slice of patients that were in need of behavioral health treatment, Palagi said. During a period of stand-by, when the unit had no patients, the hospital engaged consultants, physicians and staff to assess the program’s continued viability and the community’s needs in the mental health arena.

“We discovered that the type of patients we were seeing were best treated in more intensive, outpatient settings, not being hospitalized,” explained Palagi. “We are looking to community partnerships to see if we can help bring about such a program.”

The northeastern Nevada region has significant mental health and substance abuse treatment needs that the Behavioral Health Program was only serving in a very small capacity, he said. The hospital has been unsuccessful in recruiting a psychiatrist, which is highly desirable for an inpatient program.

The hospital did not anticipate any layoff of staff.

Family Resource Center Executive Director Judy Andreson said the problem with the unit being closed now is transportation.

“The sad thing is, when there’s a behavioral health issue that needs inpatient care, they have to get it out of town,” Andreson said.

This can create a hardship for either the family of the patient or law enforcement, she said.

Psychiatrist Ron Zedek, who opened an office in Elko in 2013, takes patients on an outpatient basis. While he hasn’t worked directly with the hospital’s behavioral health unit, he acknowledged what its removal means for Elko.

“I think it’s a loss for the community,” Zedek told the Free Press in a phone interview.

Zedek, who is the only psychiatrist in Elko, gets referrals from the Family Resource Center, emergency room, welfare office and physicians. He accepts both adults and children and takes most insurances and Medicaid at his office, located at {span class=”st”}1250 Lamoille Highway Suite 103.

“I have a very large practice in Elko,” he said.

Zedek has also been working with a therapist for about a year. For information, call 388-7504.

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