CEO Blog: Improving Behavioral Health Care Through Collaboration

Looking at today’s health care landscape, perhaps no area is in greater need of change than behavioral health.


Nearly one-fifth of U.S. adults have a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But less than half of them are receiving treatment for those problems.


The reasons for the gap are multifaceted and complex, but key causes include a nationwide shortage of psychiatric beds, along with various reimbursement and staffing challenges. It’s clear that we need to find ways to create greater access for patients to receive much-needed treatment.


We’re proud of the outstanding behavioral health services we’ve provided for more than 50 years at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego. But with this hospital due to be rebuilt soon to comply with seismic safety requirements, we realized we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we deliver this service, so we can continue our commitment to offer this vital care now and well into the future.


As health care evolves, it’s our responsibility to provide services that work for both our community and our health system, and to collaborate with other organizations for the strengths they bring to their specialized areas of care. Our goal is to improve patient care and health care access in our communities.


On Tuesday, we announced that we’ve partnered with Acadia Healthcare Company, Inc. on a new 120-bed inpatient behavioral health facility that will provide access to more than three times as many patients as we currently serve at Scripps Mercy’s 36-bed unit.


Our partnership will not only increase much-needed treatment capacity for patients throughout our region when it opens in 2023, it will also bring in Acadia’s deep expertise in the specialized field of behavioral health. Acadia operates hundreds of similar facilities, many in partnership with health care providers.


This partnership will be a collaboration in every sense of the word. The new center will be operated by a joint venture between Scripps and Acadia, with Scripps having a strong oversight role on quality and access through participation on a joint board of managers. And Scripps’ charity care policies will be honored at the new center, to make sure our commitment to underserved patients continues.


Collaborating with like-minded organizations makes sense for both our patients and for Scripps as a health system. It allows for services to continue and in many cases grow to meet our region’s changing health care needs. Working with other organizations also provides a level of specialized expertise and innovation to our patients, while allowing us to focus on our core areas of strength.


Strategic partnerships are a welcome trend in health care, and I believe we’ll see more of them in the years ahead. Scripps has partnered with organizations in other medical specialties over the years, with strong results, and we expect the same for our behavioral health patients.