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ECMC ER expansion with drug, mental illness focus

Just as many other emergency departments around the country are dealing with more substance abuse and mental health cases, ECMC is making sure there is additional room for such cases with the planning for its expanded ER.

Buffalo, NY - You can call it the changing face of emergency medical care. We're seeing more and more emergency rooms expanding across the country to also include better treatment for people with mental health and addiction problems. ECMC in Buffalo is now joining this trend with plans for its $58 Million dollar expansion.

ECMC Emergency Medicine Chief Dr. Michael Manka said, "When we have our busy days...I'll frequently see 12 overdoses during one shift."

That demand, stemming from opioid use, is coupled with the ever increasing tide of patients which the ECMC ER must handle each year.

The plan is to more than double the hospital's space by matching patient visits which soared from 35,000 a year when the last renovation occurred in the 1990s, to up to about 70,000 in 2016.

And as new ER technology like ultrasound and CT scanners jam available space, some patients are kept in hallways or other spaces until an exam room opens up. Dr. Manka pointed out, "It's really lead to sometimes delays in patient care when there's waiting time that exceed what we really like them to be."

Obviously patients dealing with substance abuse present different challenges in the emergency department. Dr. Joshua Lynch who is an ER physician noted, "The patients that hit the emergency department often times... we may be their only interaction to healthcare. So we take the time that we have with those patients very seriously."

That now means immediate use in the ER of addiction treatment medication and connections with treatment facilities. But they are complex cases according to Manka, "Going through withdrawal, looking for help with their addiction... We have counselors in our department who specialize in chemical dependency counseling and assess those patients with us. But again I think that right now we're in a situation where we're not able to provide the space for those patients to have really privacy."

More private rooms will be in the floor plan for such needs. Then there's mental health issues with the CPEP - that's Comprehensive Pyschiatric Emergency Program based in the adjacent Behavorial Health Center. Dr. Manka said, "In our new space we're gonna have a much more direct link to the CPEP space... with an area to triage those patients, make sure they're safe."

ECMC officials say some site preparation work and initial construction with a new ambulance access ramp for a newly located ground floor emergency department is underway. An actual groundbreaking

for the expansion is expected soon and the project should be complete by the end of next year.

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