The organization is scheduled to open this month its first inpatient combined medical-psychiatric unit at the Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center, part of a major and much-needed community expansion of mental health and wellness care in southern Alameda County.
In addition to the 18-bed hospital medical-psychiatric unit, Kaiser Permanente is also opening two outpatient mental health and wellness centers this fall — one in Fremont, and one in San Leandro — which are part of a five-year, $450-million investment in mental health facilities to accommodate growth and improve geographic access in Northern California. The three facilities represent an over $80-million investment to expand mental health care in southern Alameda County.
Inpatient Psychiatric Unit
This is Kaiser Permanente’s first inpatient psychiatric unit in Northern California licensed to care for patients with both psychiatric and medical conditions. (Kaiser Permanente’s inpatient psychiatric unit in Santa Clara, opened in 2010, is licensed to provide psychiatric care only.) There will be 140 mental health providers at the Fremont facility, with 40 new clinical positions that include nurses, physicians and therapists.
“At Kaiser Permanente, addressing the growing need for mental health care is a top priority,” said Janet Liang, Kaiser Permanente Northern California president. “These new facilities in Alameda County, including our first-ever medical-psychiatric unit, represent our commitment to expand mental health services across our region.”
The new medical-psychiatric unit at the Kaiser Permanente’s Fremont Medical Center helps make sure that patients’ psychiatric care is not delayed while their acute medical issues are being treated, meeting a need for patients with co-existing psychiatric and physical disorders. The secure, 11,000-square-foot facility offers a safe, positive and healing environment for clinicians and medical staff to co-manage patients’ medical and psychiatric care.
The unit has a total of 18 beds including 12 private rooms, three semi-private rooms, therapeutic space and specialized care support as needed. The facility has activity and support areas, including a separate dining and multipurpose room and a secure outdoor landscaped area giving patients access to nature and fresh air. The unit is approved by Alameda County to treat the most challenging and acute cases.
“Our community has long known and advocated for a solution to the shortage of emergency psychiatric beds in the face of growing demand, as well as the need to care for those with both physical and psychiatric conditions,” said Aaron Chapman, MD, Behavioral Health medical director, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services. “The opening of Kaiser Permanente’s new medical-psychiatric unit addresses a critical need in southern Alameda County.”
New Outpatient Mental Health Centers
Kaiser Permanente is also opening an outpatient mental health and wellness centers in San Leandro and Fremont this year, adding 100 new offices where mental health providers will treat patients. The wellness centers will offer additional rooms for individual and group therapy, and new technology will be integrated into the facility to offer telehealth options for patients and greater privacy for patients. Kaiser Permanente therapists will provide services for the full range of patients’ mental health and wellness needs, including addiction and recovery, anxiety and stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, chemical dependency, depression, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“Mental wellness is a key component of a healthy, thriving life. Kaiser Permanente’s unique system enables us to integrate mental health and wellness with primary care, specialty care and emergency care — making it part of our members’ total health,” said Eric Cain, MD, physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center.
“These new wellness centers will offer services to our patients in beautiful, dedicated spaces, and align with our commitment to supporting the mental health needs of southern Alameda County and beyond,” he added.
Since 2015, Kaiser Permanente has increased therapist staffing by 30%. Kaiser Permanente is currently seeking to hire at least 300 new therapists in California. Under a new initiative, 140 therapists are being trained each year, in addition to two psychiatry residency programs in Oakland and San Jose.
Community Grants for Mental Health
Kaiser Permanente has also distributed $4 million in grants to community organizations providing mental health services or programs that reduce the stigma of mental illness. To enhance patient convenience and access, Kaiser Permanente is also greatly expanding the use of technology in mental health care, such as offering video visits with mental health care professionals.
“As advocates for mental health care, we applaud Kaiser Permanente for making these investments for greater patient access in the face of a critical shortage of qualified professionals,” said Joe Rose, president and CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Alameda County South. “This ensures that our community has access to mental health care and support for those experiencing mental illness.”