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      Health Check: Butler Hospital seeing demand for services

      Butler Hospital has been a busier than a usual psychiatric hospital these past few months.

      "Last month on one day, we had a census of 194. We actually only have 190 beds which means we had four people waiting in our emergency department," said Dr. Larry Price, who is a long-time psychiatrist at Butler and the acting president.

      Price said these are unprecedented numbers.

      As he checks his computer, that number is at 179 but it is subject to change at any moment.

      Price agrees the overdose epidemic in Rhode Island is a contributing factor.

      "Addiction and substance misuse is part and parcel of the picture for many people with serious psychiatric," he said.

      "I think the publicity surrounding that may well have encouraged folks to realized that they have a problem that they need help for so that's actually something that we haven't talked about very much until you brought it up. But as you bring it up and I think about it, I think it makes a lot of sense to me."

      Price said there are other contributing factors. More people have insurance and more people are starting to realize mental illness is a medical condition.

      "As these conversations move on to the national picture, people see the national media and they begin to accept the idea that these are real diseases and it's okay and in fact appropriate for me to get treatment for it," Price said.

      Whatever the reasons, Price looks at the surge as good so far as people with psychiatric illnesses are reaching out for help. As a result, the hospital has added 10 beds.

      "We have added staff. We are processing people through the admissions as quickly as possible to get people in to inpatient hospital beds if they need it as soon as we possibly can," he said.

      Butler is also working with other hospitals to help expedite transfers of patients in need of psychiatric in-patient care. The goal is to encourage people to get help before it becomes so serious they require in-patient treatment.

      The hospital does have a 24-hour hotline you can call if you think you may need psychiatric services. It is 401-455-6214.