Palo Verde Streamlining Admissions for Mental Health Treatment

Palo Verde Hospital recently went through a process to streamline the admission of mentally ill patients and help them reach short-term crisis resolution more quickly.

Previously, patients arriving in an emergency room elsewhere would then have to come to the emergency room at Tucson Medical Center for a subsequent evaluation to secure admission to the 48-bed Palo Verde.

Under the system put in place at Palo Verde in 2011, patients can now go directly from an emergency room elsewhere to a bed at Palo Verde. The staff at another hospital can send over the patient’s medical and psycho-social background to secure physician approval for the admission.

 “It was bad for the patients to have to sit through two emergency department visits. Plus, it was time-consuming and clogged up the system,” explained Palo Verde administrator Allan “Chip” Harrington.

Now, by the time a patient shows up at the door, orders for admission and medication have already been placed. “When the patient gets here, we can hit the ground running rather than spend all that time up front with the evaluation.”

The process is about to get even more streamlined.

The evaluation traditionally has been completed by two different people before it ever gets to a doctor. A registered nurse evaluates the patient’s condition from a medical perspective, while a licensed evaluator trained in social work analyzes the patient from a behavioral health perspective.

 That can be a cumbersome process, particularly for admissions originating outside of Palo Verde. In many cases, and particularly in smaller cities, the emergency rooms aren’t equipped to deal with mentally ill patients.

“Psychiatric patients who come to the emergency room are typically very disruptive,” Harrington said. “Staff members at other facilities often don’t know how to care for them and they aren’t trained to give treatment, so their goal is to get a placement for the patient as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

Registered nurses are now being cross-trained to perform both functions.

The idea is not to replace the evaluators that are in place, Harrington said. “But we’d like at least one nurse evaluator available every day so we can grow our direct admissions and make the process even quicker and simpler for the patient.”

For more information on admissions or for answers to other questions, call Palo Verde at 520-324-1282.


  1. Good article for Palo Verde Streamlining Admissions for Mental Health Treatment.

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