Minnesota Hospital Association


March 08, 2017

Sanford Thief River Falls offers comprehensive behavioral health services

In 2012-13, a formal community health needs assessment was conducted in the Thief River Falls area. Community stakeholders identified mental/behavioral health as the top priority. Seeing the need for more and enhanced services, Sanford Thief River Falls Behavioral Health Center and its community board of directors worked together on implementation strategies to address the behavioral health needs in the community.

One of the first priorities was to increase the number of beds for the inpatient psychiatric facility. It is rare to be able to add beds in outstate Minnesota. In 2012, the Sanford Thief River Falls inpatient psychiatric unit had 471 admissions with an average stay of 6.2 days. It also turned away 393 admissions, 347 of which were due to lack of capacity. 

In order to increase beds, Sanford Health needed legislation in 2013 for an exception to a state moratorium on new hospitals/bed capacity in order to expand its inpatient behavioral health beds. 

In 2014, after Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center moved to a new campus, its former campus was remodeled to expand the inpatient psychiatric facility from 10 to 16 beds. Sanford Thief River Falls Behavioral Health Center currently serves as the only freestanding behavioral health hospital and primary provider of inpatient psychiatric services for northwest Minnesota. Sanford Thief River Falls employs psychiatrists, psychologists and 86 other behavioral health staff.

Sanford Thief River Falls Behavioral Health Center was designed with the distinctive patient populations for behavioral health in mind. There is a general pod of eight beds, a high acuity pod of four beds and a flex pod of four beds. A sensory room offers a safe and comfortable environment for patients to relax and work on their coping skills. Furniture on the unit was supplied from a vendor that specializes in safety for psychiatric facilities. The décor offers natural light, a healing environment color palette and open space for activities and dining.

In addition to this expansion of the inpatient unit, Sanford Thief River Falls has continued to focus on the expansion of outpatient services to provide the most appropriate model of care for different individuals in varying situations. Sanford is working to implement a behavior health home program, in addition to revamping and building the community-based model of care. The health system also provides a children’s treatment center and a facility for adult intensive residential treatment. 

The services provide a great benefit for the region. During the most recent fiscal year, a total of 3,609 patients were seen, with over $2 million of services subsidized by the inpatient hospital to benefit the community.