Full of Empty Beds

Vehicle accidents, falls, assaults and unintentional blunt force traumas result in over one million Americans sustaining a brain injury every year. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can range from “mild” to “severe,” with the most critical cases requiring the victim to have life-time medical care. TBI symptoms may be mild at first and may worsen over time. Shattered glass and twisted metal. Broken bones and blood. Traffic accidents tend to be thought of in terms of physical damage. What many people fail to realize is that psychiatric injuries are very common in the aftermath of a car, truck or motorcycle wreck. Nonfatal accidents can leave drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bystanders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, persistent anxiety, depression or phobias such as fear of driving and fear of cars. Mental anguish can be considered both a non-economic damage (usually falling under the category of “pain and suffering”) as well as a medical injury.

Eastern State Hospital

With this ongoing need for treatment, many in the area were excited about the opening of the new Eastern State Hospital in the fall of 2013. The $129 million facility replaced the second oldest psychiatric hospital in the country with a 239-bed modern main hospital and four 11,000-square-feet personal care homes, each with the capacity to serve 16 people. Promising a new era of psychiatric care for Central and Eastern Kentucky, the facility boasts a new neuro-behavioral unit for specialized services for individuals with acquired brain injuries, a long-term care unit serving individuals with psychiatric disabilities requiring nursing home level of care, and acute inpatient behavioral health treatment.
As of March 2015, two of the four transitional units for patients who need additional support in order to return to a community setting remain empty. Why?
Despite being managed by UK HealthCare under a $43 million contract with the state, the answer appears to be a lack of operating funds. Furthermore, the state claims it’s trying to determine the best use for the units, such as drug treatment beds or crisis stabilization units. The state also hopes to find a use that can generate revenue to offset the operating costs. Mental health advocates argue that the 32 unused beds should be housing for the mentally ill, that there is a lack of community-based residential services for people with serious mental illness, that social security disability benefits would be eligible to pay for some of the care, and that state money allocated for personal care homes could be used to pay for transitional residential treatment. While these valuable resources sit vacant, there are various groups in our communities who desperately need them. Whether the state decides to use the units as originally intended or to benefit another population, we want the best for all our local citizens. If you have any questions about this topic or know someone who has suffered a brain injury, contact us to discuss your unique situation. Call the Johnson Law Firm at 606-437-4488 or fill out our consultation form for a free assessment of your case.

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