Donation fuels emPATH Unit at Centra

Published 10:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Thanks to a grateful patient’s anonymous $1 million donation, Centra will begin construction on the Commonwealth’s first emPATH unit.

This donation, the largest single outright anonymous donation and among the largest gifts ever received by the Centra Foundation, will initiate the start of the project this fall. The Centra Foundation has committed to funding the transformation, including construction and initial operating expenses.

EmPATH, which stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing, is a model of care pioneered by Dr. Scott Zeller, a professor at the University of California, Riverside. This new approach addresses long-standing challenges for emergency department patients with behavioral health issues. The unit helps eliminate isolation and extended wait times typically experienced by placing patients in a shared, open area where caregivers, behavioral health experts and other patients interact and support one another. There are about 100 units across the United States, with Centra’s emPATH Unit being the first in the Commonwealth.

Designed to be a calming, comfortable space where patients can be assessed and treated, the primary focus of the emPATH Unit will be to return the patient safely to their homes with the support of outpatient services, their families and community resources. Ultimately, the emPATH Unit will work to reduce the need for extended emergency department stays or hospital admittance. Treatment is administered by a team of Centra caregivers, including physicians, advanced practice providers, registered nurses, mental health technicians, case managers and social workers.

The Community Health Needs Assessment, conducted in 2021, identified mental health among the top health concerns affecting the communities of Central Virginia. Centra remains committed to providing care that will empower every community member to live their best life. The launch of an emPATH Unit by Centra’s Department of Emergency Services in collaboration with psychiatry/behavioral health is exciting evidence of this continued commitment.

The construction of the unit, located within Lynchburg General Hospital’s Emergency Department, is set to begin late this summer. The unit is expected to be complete and operating by early 2023.