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Penn Medicine is to open a new crisis response center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania - Cedar Avenue. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn Medicine is opening a new crisis response center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — Cedar Avenue to consolidate emergency, inpatient, and outpatient care. 

The project is part of a multi-year plan to restructure Penn Med’s psychiatric and substance use facilities, according to the announcement on May 19. The center at HUP Cedar will provide emergency mental health services and inpatient care for people with serious psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. 

Previously, Mercy Philadelphia Hospital operated a CRC on Cedar Avenue. The center closed in March 2020, making it more difficult for West Philadelphia residents to access emergency psychiatric services. The new CRC, which launches later this summer, will accommodate an estimated 4,000 patient visits annually. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the mental health crisis across the nation," Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said in the Penn Med announcement. "Providing easy access to care when people are in crisis changes — and saves — lives. We are committed to the investment and innovation needed to close the gaps in access to care and reverse the toll of mental health and substance use in Philadelphia.” 

The plan will begin with the closure of psychiatric and drug and alcohol detoxification units at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in July. 

After the restructuring, Penn Med will operate two comprehensive mental health response centers in Philadelphia. The other CRC is located at Pennsylvania Hospital and has been in operation since 1999. Combined, the two sites will have 73 psychiatric beds and 16 addiction treatment beds.

“The overarching goal is to streamline our services and make the patient experience less challenging,” UPHS Psychiatrist-in-Chief Maria Oquendo told The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

The HUP Cedar CRC will receive a $5.76 million investment from Penn Med, in addition to funds from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health. 

“Expanding our resources to care for mental health needs in Philadelphia is a core part of our mission,” CEO of HUP Regina Cunningham said in the announcement. “No matter where people live in the city, we aspire to provide them with support in convenient settings, and work to erase both the stigmas and access problems that stand in the way of helping people get help.”

Penn Med’s other mental health care services include Penn Integrated Care, which launched in 2018 as a program to incorporate mental health professionals into primary care.