Published in Health Care
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s planned Grand Rapids expansion with BHSH System’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s planned Grand Rapids expansion with BHSH System’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. COURTESY OF PROGRESSIVE AE INC.

After merger, Spectrum Health elevates collaboration with other providers

BY Thursday, July 28, 2022 04:33pm

Recent announcements of two new pediatric care centers in Grand Rapids signal a heightened push for collaboration with other health care providers from BHSH System’s Spectrum Health West Michigan.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital are each pursuing plans for new pediatric care centers in Grand Rapids through partnerships with BHSH’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

While Spectrum Health partnered for years with Pine Rest and Mary Free Bed, each project signals a growing attention to partnerships for BHSH, now the largest in-state health system in Michigan following the February merger of Spectrum and Beaumont Health.

“By bringing two organizations together in these collaborations and partnerships, it actually makes it better for the community and each of our organizations,” BHSH System President and CEO Tina Freese Decker told MiBiz. “It’s continuing the strategy of partnership, but it’s also elevating it.”

At Mary Free Bed, DeVos Children’s Hospital will become part of a $60 million pediatric rehabilitation hospital through a joint operating agreement between the two organizations. Mary Free Bed will develop the two-story, 67,000-square-foot hospital across from its main campus.

In mental health care, DeVos Children’s Hospital partnered on a new $62 million pediatric care center to address what Pine Rest CEO Mark Eastburg calls a “crushing need” for more mental health treatment among children and adolescents.

The 88-bed Pediatric Behavioral Health Center of Excellence on Pine Rest’s 68th Street campus in Cutlerville — up from the present 36 inpatient pediatric beds — will include a psychiatric urgent care, a crisis stabilization unit, psychological assessment services, partial hospitalization, and specialty outpatient clinics to prevent mental health crises for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Pine Rest expects the pediatric center to annually serve 3,000 families on an inpatient level and provide outpatient care to 10,000 children.

Merging physical, mental health

Through their partnership, Pine Rest and DeVos Children’s Hospital together plan to blend mental and physical health care by creating a “seamless continuum of care between services” at Pine Rest and DeVos Children’s Hospitals, Eastburg said.

“With this center, we’re beginning to mend the fragmentation between physical health and mental health services that contribute to suffering and confusion for kids and families in a time of crisis,” he said. “No matter where a family starts their care journey, they will experience their providers as working closely together for their benefit, getting kids to exactly the right expert as quickly as possible.”

Physical health and mental health are “really viewed and very often treated very independently,” said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan. Bridging the two was one of the drivers behind forming the partnership with Pine Rest for the new pediatric center amid a “dire need” to create greater access to mental health care for children and adolescents, Elmouchi said.

“We saw this huge gap and this huge need in terms of integrating behavioral health and physical well-being together, particularly in kids, and saw a great opportunity,” he said. “The more behavioral health wrap-around service we can give to medical patients, and vice versa, the better that we will be, the better the outcomes will be.”

A $38 million appropriation in the state’s new budget for the 2023 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 will fund a large part of the project. Pine Rest seeks to raise the remaining $24 million through a capital campaign.

Spectrum Health’s foundation will support promotion of the Pine Rest capital campaign and recruitment for pediatric behavioral health professionals, Freese Decker said.

Spectrum Health also will make upgrades at DeVos Children’s Hospital to support more pediatric mental health care, according to Elmouchi. A new unit at DeVos Children’s Hospital will “be dedicated to kids with significant behavioral health needs who need to be hospitalized with a medical condition,” he said.

When Pine Rest publicly announced the project July 21, Eastburg noted that collaboration has long been an emphasis in West Michigan for major projects.

“In West Michigan, this kind of collaboration and partnership, based on trust and friendship, comes naturally to us,” Eastburg said.

‘Broad strategy’

By partnering with Mary Free Bed and Pine Rest on their respective projects, DeVos Children’s Hospital further expands its service and brand in the market.

BHSH System seeks additional partnerships, including health equity, across the state, Freese Decker said.

“This is part of a broad strategy because we believe partnerships allow us to use the expertise of  both organizations to benefit the people that we serve,” she said. “Partnerships come in many different forms and we are very open to connecting with people to figure out the partnerships that can deliver on our mission to improve the health of our community.”

Forging partnerships was “probably not necessarily our historical strong suit years ago” for Spectrum Health, and “it’s nice to focus on that,” said Elmouchi, who’s been with the health system since 2006.

“In health care, I think there’s too much re-invention of the wheel,” Elmouchi said.

Discussions between Pine Rest and DeVos Children’s Hospital to improve access to pediatric mental health care date back four years, Eastburg said. The pediatric center will “dramatically expand and add new behavioral health services to kids in Michigan, our children and grandchildren,” he said.

A lack of adequate capacity and access for children and adolescents needing mental health care existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Eastburg said.

The rate of adolescents and young adults experiencing a major depressive episode has doubled in the last 10 years, and suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among adolescents, he said.

Incidence rates for depression, anxiety, substance use and other issues have risen throughout the pandemic, creating a “crushing need for mental health services in our community,” Eastburg said.

“This epidemic of mental illness is nothing new, but in the last two and a half years the COVID-19 pandemic has poured kerosene on the smoldering fire of mental illness and suicide and substance use disorder in our kids,” he said. “What was an urgent need for more access to mental care services prior to the pandemic became a mental health pandemic in itself.” 

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