Cars and Stars Funds Family Visitation Center

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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Valerie Avery
April 20, 2010 (432) 816-9257

Friends and relatives of patients at Big Spring State Hospital are limited to visiting loved ones on patient units.

While on the surface, this does not appear problematic, in actuality it is.

“When you have people from outside the hospital visiting family members on the unit, it poses several problems,” Big Spring State Hospital Superintendent Ed Moughon said.

“First, you are violating other patients’ confidentiality,” he said. “Big Spring State Hospital guards patient confidentiality very rigorously. We are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as HIPAA which has strict guidelines on patient confidentiality.”

“However, even before that became law, we took privacy very seriously,” Moughon said. “Big Spring State Hospital is just like any other hospital where a patient checks in  for treatment, and they expect their whereabouts or their diagnosis to remain confidential. If family members are on the unit visiting with patients, they are able to see who else is being treated at our hospital.”

“Right now, patient units are the only places where family members can visit with patients.”

Also, many other common-sense factors such as the patient and the visiting family’s own level of privacy, the number of family members allowed to visit because of space limitation, and the safety of the visiting family become factors as well, he said.

“And more importantly, a patient unit is not the most private or quiet environment for visiting,” Moughon said. “Here you have a person who has been hospitalized and it may be the first time this patient has seen his or her family and there is a regular hospital environment buzzing around them. It’s not the best place to spend quality family time.”

Families must visit with their loved ones in an area away from the main patient living environment, said Kathy Salazar, Director of Social Work Services.

“This is for the privacy of the visitors and for the privacy of other patients on the unit,” she said. “Right now we have very limited areas for patients and family members to use when visiting. The visiting rooms on some of the units will accommodate only two or three people at a time and public restrooms are not easily accessible.”

“Big Spring State Hospital has had an increase in the number of patient families who are actively involved, and we have a pressing need for adequate and comfortable visitation center space,” Salazar said

More than 2,000 people have visited Big Spring State Hospital the first six months of the fiscal year, she said. “There is clearly a need for this building.”

Research shows the benefit of family support and involvement in patient hope and recovery, said Lorie Couch, Big Spring State Hospital Assistant Superintendent.

Team members from various specialties at Big Spring State Hospital know the importance of regular family contact, Salazar said.

It’s not only important for patients who crave family contact and who miss their parents, spouses or children but to continually update family members on the patient’s progress and keep them informed about what to expect when they are released from the hospital.

It’s very important for us to have a strong, safe environment in which to send patients back to, Salazar said. It does a patient no good to treat them in a hospital environment, give them the tools they need to succeed and then send them home to a place that may not be aware of their needs or have the tools needed to continue their treatment.

Mental illness is a lifelong disease that must be managed with medications and/or therapy and a strong network of support, Salazar said.

The contact family members show or continue to show during hospitalization is a strong connection in which both sides need to follow through with that continuum of care.

“Everyone needs support of family and friends,” Salazar said. “We all want to know that, no matter what is going on in our lives, we have the love and support of our family and friends while we re-cooperate. Visits from family and friends help build confidence and give hope to our patients, and that is a big part of what helps us ‘get well.’ “

Volunteers have funded many necessary construction projects around campus, including the Animal Assisted Therapy building, the greenhouse and the swimming pool, said Lorie Couch, Big Spring state Hospital Assistant Superintendent.

“Historically, the volunteers have come through for us in providing buildings for Big Spring State Hospital that directly tie into improving the quality of life for the patients,” Couch said. “These are projects that we may not be able to fund without the volunteers assistance as much of our construction project funding is typically dedicated to repair and or maintenance of our existing buildings to ensure that we are compliant with the Life Safety Code.”

“This is definitely a ‘bonus’ project for the patients. The improvement would benefit our patients by providing patients and families with a useful visitation space.”

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Last updated August 30, 2010