People now getting specialized health care in Benson will soon have to come all the way to Tucson.
It's because a psychiatric hospital is closing next month.
The Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF), known as the PUF in Benson, serves Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) patients from four counties.
They are Cochise, Santa Cruz, Graham and Greenlee.
AHCCCS Is Arizona's version of Medicaid.
Southeastern Arizona Behavioral Health Services, or SEABHS (pronounced SEABUS), operates the hospital which SEABHS says has seen a 75% decline in patient admissions over the past few years.
SEABHS CEO Jim Rubio says that's because outpatient and support services have been improved in all four counties.
Rubio says fewer people need hospitalization, so it's not feasible to continue operating the hospital.
Rubio calls the concept of improving services in the communities where patients live "hospitals without walls."
"So that we could expand the continuum of care--quality behavioral health services in all of our communities so that the individuals we serve could receive their services in the communities," Rubio says.
He says patients who still need hospitalization after the psychiatric facility closes will be transported to Tucson.
Benson leaders say they found out about this major change affecting their city through the news media.
"We had no contact with SEABHS administrative staff or anybody. Any time that you lose a service that the community has become accustomed to it has nothing but a negative effect on the community. So we're in the process of trying to evaluate that now," says Benson Interim City Manager Jim Cox.
Cox says he is not pleased with a situation where patients must be transported all the way to Tucson, which is about 45 miles away from Benson.
"Most of the people who take advantage of a facility like that are very limited in their ability to travel. So what seems like a short distance for you and I could be a very very long distance for them and make it impossible for family members to see each other," Cox says.
Rubio agrees traveling all the way to Tucson could be a hardship for families.
"Transportation for the enrolled members is going to be a covered service. For the family members that would be correct. There's going to be some adjustments that are going to have to occur. There's no doubt about that. Those are just going to -families are just going to have work--we'll work in conjunction with all of our families," Rubio says.
The doors will close on the Psychiatric Health Facility in Benson May 10.
The 24-hour mental health crisis hotline for anyone who needs it in the four counties is 1-866-495-6735. That's a toll free number.
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