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Chicago’s First Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Center Continues Sinai’s Significant Expansion of Behavioral Health Services on South and Southwest Sides




July 10, 2019


Sinai Health System dedicated its new $6.5 million Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) at Holy Cross Hospital today at a ribbon cutting event with dignitaries including Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.


Sinai’s CSU is Chicago’s first comprehensive medical unit created specifically to treat patients experiencing a mental health crisis. It serves as an alternative to standard emergency rooms which are already overcrowded and often ill-equipped to deal with psychiatric emergencies. Designed to serve up to 32 patients at a time, the 24-hour CSU offers immediate access to psychiatric and behavioral health professionals who can rapidly diagnose and properly treat mental health conditions, such as an emotional crisis or a psychiatric condition needing medical care right away.


“Our work deep in the communities has shown a huge gap in the right kind of care and support to help meet behavioral health needs in Chicago’s most underserved communities,” said Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Health System. “Sinai has stepped up to develop the resources required to provide outpatient, inpatient and emergency services where they are needed most.”


In July 2015, Sinai opened a pilot CSU at Holy Cross Hospital with space for 12 patients. In four years, the unit has served more than 5,000 patients, and approximately 70% were stabilized and discharged to lower levels of care with referrals for appropriate follow-up care in the community. Without a dedicated unit like this, patients in crisis might end up with huge waits in the ER, often an inpatient stay, or a night in jail when picked up by police. 


“I applaud Sinai for their work to move the city and the state forward in the fight for mental health equity,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The state of Illinois stands with you in expanding mental health treatment and making sure all receive the care they deserve. I was proud to sign into law a budget that includes an $80 million increase in funding for mental health and addiction treatment. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and I want to make it clear that the days of government bureaucracy standing in the way of that right are over.”


Like a traditional ER, the new CSU has a designated access area for emergency personnel, including police and paramedics which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The CSU also offers walk-in access for individuals to receive assessment and support.


Staffed by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers, the unit plans to not only assess and provide behavioral health treatment and follow up – it will also connect patients to additional services they may need in the community like housing and food.


The CSU complements expanded outpatient and inpatient behavioral health programs Sinai has opened on the Southwest side in recent years. In October 2016, Sinai opened a 24-bed inpatient unit at Holy Cross Hospital, and an outpatient center for youth and adults at the nearby Catholic Charities St. Casimir Center. Both of these programs are filling a tremendous need for behavioral health services in the surrounding communities.


“A lack of mental health services has plagued Chicago for decades,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “We know that 60 percent of those diagnosed with mental illness never receive treatment and unfortunately, the police and our jails are picking up the brunt of this. We need dedicated places, like Sinai, where those experiencing a mental health emergency can receive appropriate medical care.”


The specially designed CSU was built by an architectural firm that specializes in behavioral health care. From murals depicting parks and natural areas of Chicago, to the choice of color on the walls, it is designed to be a calming and healing environment where patients can receive the care they need in an optimal setting.


Behavioral health: access and need


Sinai Health System is a leader in behavioral health. In addition to services at Holy Cross Hospital and Catholic Charities St. Casimir Center, it provides outpatient services for children, adolescents and adults on the west side of Chicago as well as inpatient care at Mount Sinai Hospital. In recent years, Sinai has seen an increase in demand for behavioral health care. Behavioral health emergency visits have increased to 59.8 percent from 2016 to 2018. In 2018 alone, Sinai had more than 77,000 visits by those seeking treatment for behavioral health, including emergency room visits, as well as inpatient and outpatient care.


According the Chicago Health Atlas, four of the seven zip codes served by Holy Cross Hospital have a behavioral health hospitalization rate that exceeds the Chicago average. The mental health hospitalization rate for the zip code that roughly corresponds to the West Englewood community is 320 per 100,000 people, almost double the Chicago rate of 173 per 100,000.