Fairview's hospital closures raise mental health concerns

Fairview Health Services' closure of two hospitals will mean fewer inpatient mental health beds in the area.
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Fairview Health Services is closing two of its hospitals, but mental health advocates have raised concerns over the possible consequences.

Fairview recently announced a series of cuts, including 900 positions across its system. Fairview will also close St. Joseph’s and Bethesda hospitals in St. Paul. Bethesda, which currently solely serves COVID-19 patients, will become a winter shelter for the local homeless population, pending approval from Ramsey County.

St. Joseph’s will be “reimagined” as a community wellness hub in coming years, with 100 mental health beds remaining open through 2021, Fairview said. Fairview also pointed out the hospital’s close proximity to other facilities.

But the closures will mean fewer mental health beds in the area. Fairview Southdale will also lose 18 inpatient psychiatric beds. But a new emergency mental health unit will be added to Southdale, according to the Star Tribune.

NAMI Minnesota, a nonprofit that works with people with mental illness, said in a statement the loss of these beds will negatively impact those that require inpatient care, not just emergency treatment.

“While Fairview has stated that it’s the largest mental health provider in the Midwest, this is not a reason to decrease access to mental health treatment at a time when the pandemic has increased the need for mental health care,” a release from NAMI reads.

“It doesn’t matter how big a provider you are, closing beds decreases access. NAMI Minnesota urges community members to speak up against these closures."

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