By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Mount Sinai will be moving its behavioral health services from the Beth Israel Bernstein Pavilion facility west of First Avenue in Stuyvesant Square to a new space on Rivington Street as part of the hospital system’s downsizing plan.
Mount Sinai has signed a letter of intent to lease 45 Rivington Street and create a mental health facility that will include the services now housed at the Bernstein Pavilion and other facilities in the downtown area, leaving the building on Nathan D. Perlman Place across from Stuyvesant Square Park vacant. Mount Sinai is not yet discussing plans for the building once it’s empty.
The move will include the addition of new services at the Rivington location, such as intensive crisis and respite beds, primary care and ambulatory detoxification, to create a “one-stop” location for mental health, addictions, physical health and social service needs.
Although MSBI had intended to renovate the Bernstein Pavilion, the facility is more than 60 years old and that plan was ultimately not feasible, the hospital said.
MSBI spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt said that the Bernstein Pavilion and the programs there will remain available and fully operational until the Rivington site is open and specified that there will not be an interruption in services.
“We have already begun engaging with the state, city, community and local leaders on our plans and look forward to continuing a successful partnership to deliver these critical services to the downtown community,” Riegelhaupt said.
The change is part of the hospital system’s downsizing plan that includes a reduction in hospital beds and the construction of a new facility at East 14th Street and Second Avenue. Mount Sinai first announced the plan in 2016, branding the project as a “transformation” of Beth Israel due to the changing needs of the healthcare industry.
When the plan was first announced, representatives said that the 799-bed facility would be downsized to 220 beds, with 150 of those beds being psychiatric ones remaining at Bernstein and the 649 medical-surgical beds reduced to 70. With the relocation of the behavioral health services from Bernstein to the Lower East Side, the new Beth Israel facility on Second Avenue will have 70 beds.
The $550 million project also includes renovations to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on Second Avenue and the Philips Ambulatory Center in Union Square, as well as upgrades to Mount Sinai’s cancer center.
Mount Sinai representatives had previously stated at community meetings that the drastic reduction in beds is based on an ongoing national trend which shows that fewer hospital beds are being used throughout the country, especially because the length of stay for some procedures has been decreasing.
Despite ongoing changes in healthcare, local elected officials have criticized the plans for the hospital system’s lack of solicitation for community input.
State Senator Brad Hoylman said that this problem isn’t unique to Mount Sinai and he has urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to address the issue by appointing consumer advocates to the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC).
“A lot of these improvements have been made without community consultation,” Hoylman said. “This is a symptom of a deeper problem. It’s not just Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the reorganization they’re going through. These decisions are made without oversight.”
Hoylman and more than a dozen other elected officials sent a letter to the governor in October encouraging him to fill two vacancies on the council with consumer advocates because of the perceived lack of transparency around changes made to MSBI’s plans, which were approved and are pending approval by PHHPC without significant input from community members.
Hoylman said that regarding the relocation of services out of the Bernstein Pavilion, his office will be working with Community Board 6 and Borough President Gale Brewer’s task force to come up with the appropriate response.
“We’re losing services in the immediate neighborhood,” Hoylman said. “Even if they’re being relocated in Manhattan elsewhere, part of the strength of the neighborhood is that we have these services close to our homes and if you’re a senior who can’t easily travel to other neighborhoods, that can make difference.”