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May 19, 2023

Penn Medicine to open mental health care hub at former Mercy Hospital

The facility will house a crisis response center offering emergency services for people with substance use or psychiatric disorders

Mental Health Hospitals
Penn Medicine mental health Street View/Google Maps

Penn Medicine is opening a mental health care hub at the former Mercy Philadelphia Hospital. It will provide inpatient and outpatient services, and house a crisis response center to provide emergency treatment to people with psychiatric and substance use disorders.

Penn Medicine is opening a new mental health care hub that aims to improve access to psychiatric services to West and Southwest Philadelphia residents. 

The hub, to open in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – Cedar Avenue, the site of the former Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, will offer inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services on the same campus. It also will house a crisis response center where people can receive emergency evaluations and treatment for substance use and psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. 

A Pew Research Center survey from late last year found 41% of Americans have experienced high levels of psychological distress at least once since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In Philadelphia, more than 20% of residents have been diagnosed with depressive disorders, a 2021 study revealed

Penn Medicine is investing $5.76 million into the crisis response center. It also has received a $1.5 million grant from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and $4.1 million from the city's Department of Behavioral Health. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the mental health crisis across the nation. As COVID recedes, we have a moral imperative to tackle this suffering in our communities," said Kevin B. Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "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."

In July, Penn Medicine will move its inpatient psychiatric and drug and alcohol detoxification units from Penn Presbyterian Medical Center to the new hub at HUP Cedar. The crisis response center, expected to treat about 4,000 patients each year, will open later in the summer. 

The new crisis response center is replacing one that was operated at the same location by Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, which closed in March 2020. 

It will be Penn Medicine's second crisis response center; the health system opened its first at Pennsylvania Hospital in 1999. Between the two centers, Penn will have 73 inpatient psychiatric beds and 16 beds for substance use treatment. A medical-psychiatric unit is in the works, too. 

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia also plans to open a 46-bed pediatric behavioral health facility and a walk-in crisis center for children at HUP Cedar.

"When patients and families are coping with a mental health crisis, the last thing they need to think about is how to navigate a complex system," said Michele Volpe, chief operating officer of the Penn health system. "By putting all our services together, we can help keep patients safer, get them into treatment faster, and better support families as they begin to navigate supporting their loved ones during their hospitalization and recovery."

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