M Health Fairview to Open Minnesota’s First EmPATH Unit

New outpatient emergency mental health care model will be one of the first in the United States

EmPATH spaces are designed to be soothing and relaxing, with natural light, comfortable seating, and private sensory rooms. (Photo: Business Wire)

MINNEAPOLIS--()--A new outpatient mental health care model – the first of its kind in Minnesota and one of only a few in the country – will open at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital March 29, with more to follow across the M Health Fairview system.

The Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, and Healing (EmPATH) service, or EmPATH, reimagines emergency mental health care by offering patients in crisis immediate access to a team of mental health experts in a calming, living-room-style environment. After a quick triage process, patients with mental health or substance use disorder needs will be guided to the EmPATH unit. There, they’ll receive compassionate care to stabilize their situation, reducing the likelihood that they will need to be admitted into a hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit.

The ongoing pandemic has led to a surge of mental health and addiction needs across Minnesota. M Health Fairview’s development of EmPATH is in direct response to the growing demand for mental health care and evidence that shows an emergency room is not the best clinical setting for meeting the needs of most people suffering with a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

“By their very nature, there is always a lot going on in emergency departments: loud noises, people moving quickly, and a lot of activity,” said Richard Levine, MD, medical director of adult outpatient mental health and addiction services for M Health Fairview. “It can be very anxiety provoking and triggering for people with mental health concerns, which makes the emergency department a difficult place to take care of those issues.”

EmPATH spaces are designed to be soothing and relaxing, with natural light, comfortable seating, and private sensory rooms. Each unit is staffed by a highly skilled team that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, clinical social workers, and other licensed mental health professionals who will work with each patient to identify needs, administer medications, and begin appropriate treatment and healing.

In addition to rapid treatment, EmPATH providers will partner with each patient and the patient’s loved ones to develop a care plan. Care teams will also provide connections to follow-up services, so that each person will leave with a roadmap for ongoing care.

“Part of EmPATH’s effectiveness is that it establishes building blocks for future treatments patients will receive,” Levine said. “The hope is that we can get more patients on the right path right away, so we are providing better short- and long-term care.”

That level of individualized care isn’t always available in an emergency department. While hospital emergency departments are a critically important part of healthcare’s safety net in America, they may only address a person’s short-term mental health needs without providing a long-term solution. In spite of this, people experiencing mental health or substance use disorder crises often end up in the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Nationally, 1 in 8 emergency room visits involve mental health or substance use conditions.

Mental health patients aren’t the only people who stand to benefit from the introduction of EmPATH in the Twin Cities. Moving behavioral health patients out of emergency departments and into EmPATH units will streamline patient flow, meaning people coming with other illnesses or injuries – from heart attacks to broken legs – will have faster access to emergency care.

M Health Fairview is the largest provider of mental health services in the Upper Midwest. EmPATH will supplement – not replace – other types of mental health care the system offers. Inpatient psychiatric care will remain a major component of M Health Fairview services, and the system will continue to offer a full spectrum of other programs, including clinic-based outpatient care, therapy, psychological testing, and Behavioral Health Home care. (Watch: M Health Fairview’s vision for the future of mental health and addiction care.)

“The best outcomes occur when patients participate in their own care plans and progress,” Lewis P. Zeidner, PhD, M Health Fairview’s system director for clinical triage and transition services said. “Having a full spectrum of options available allows us to match a person’s life circumstances to a personalized care path, and keeps patients motivated once they are on that path.”

About M Health Fairview

M Health Fairview is the newly expanded collaboration between the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Physicians, and Fairview Health Services. The healthcare system combines the best of academic and community medicine – expanding access to world-class, breakthrough care through our 10 hospitals and 60 clinics.


Aimee Jordan | Media Relations Manager, M Health Fairview
ajordan5@fairview.org | 612-306-1811


Aimee Jordan | Media Relations Manager, M Health Fairview
ajordan5@fairview.org | 612-306-1811