HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Riverside Health System cut the ribbon Thursday on the state’s first stand-alone psychiatric emergency department.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined other dignitaries and doctors in dedicating the facility, which is designed to care for patients five-years of age and older who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Thank you for doing what is needed, and thank you for delivering on something that is fundamentally going to change the lives of so many people,” Youngkin said at the ceremony.

The new Psychiatric ED is connected to Riverside Mental Health & Recovery Center (RMHRC) on
Executive Drive in Hampton.

One look inside, RMHRC President Stacey Johnson said, and you can see how it’s different from more traditional emergency rooms.

“The lights are bright, the beeps are loud, folks are running in all different directions, and here, with the ability to just focus on mental health, we are really able to create a calm, quiet environment,” Johnson said.

Sensory rooms with high-definition television screens provide images that give an illusion of sitting outdoors on a beach, or looking at fish.

Adults and children will be treated in separate wings of the facility, and it will be staffed with psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners who are often absent at traditional EDs.

“A lot of times you’ll have schizophrenia, bipolar, as you mentioned, substance use concerns, and they may actually sit in the emergency room and get some treatment, but maybe not enough,” said Chief Medical Director Ryan McQueen.

McQueen said they will be able to start medications and provide a tailored treatment. At the least, he said, they will bridge the gap until a person can be admitted to a hospital or outpatient program.

“Here, we have a psychiatric emergency department that can be the standard,” Youngkin said.

He called it a model for future facilities.

Hampton’s Mayor Donnie Tuck and Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan also shared how the new psychiatric emergency department will help with overcrowding in typical emergency rooms and in city jails, where many mentally ill individuals end up.

Riverside will start seeing patients at the ED later this fall, though no date has been given yet.