Morehouse General Hospital has opened the Helping Older People Emotionally Psychiatric Care Unit for geriatric patients, and admitted their first patient last week.

MGH Chief Nursing Officer Marie Stephenson said the hospital realized the community's need for the HOPE Unit after taking part in a community health assessment about two years ago.

"We worked with a consultant group to help get this specialty unit started," she said. "We will be giving tours if anyone is interested in seeing the new facility. We will also have a ribbon cutting in the near future."

Stephenson said the first floor of the hospital has been completely renovated to make room for the new unit, which has room for 10 patients.

HOPE Unit Director Shannon Grantham said the need for the center is due to the growing population being much older on average.

"There are many psychiatric disorders that the elderly population suffer from that this unit specializes in," she said.

Grantham said unit coordinators have been visiting nursing homes and talking with them about the new facility.

"One of the first things we do at the facility is assess the patient's medication," she said. "We also have our registered nurses do head-to-toe assessments."

The patients will also be seen by a psychiatrist via Skype technology in order to develop an individualized treatment plan. The average stay per patient is 10 days, but it varies, she said.

"It is good for Bastrop to have this unit," she said. "We are able to keep residents near home so there is a greater chance of family members visiting them. We are working hard to help patients step down to local outpatient centers so they don't have to go to Monroe or somewhere else for care."

Stephenson said the unit has full hospital services with a private commons area for patients to dine in and have group therapy. Currently the center is only able to take Medicare insurance, however, Stephenson said they will be able to take more types in the near future.

Stephenson and Grantham said the hospital is proud of the new facility.