MCMINNVILLE – River Park Hospital is planning to open a new inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit and has chosen an Upper Cumberland native to lead its team.
Mandy Gay, a born Cannon Countian, was hired at the McMinnville hospital earlier this year as director of Serenity Behavioral Health, which is scheduled to open in May. Serenity will be outfitted with 10 beds for patients aged 55 and up, patients who might suffering from a wide range of mental health needs – from depression to Alzheimer’s, dementia, schizophrenic, bi-polar disorder, and more. The unit at River Park was created by renovating roughly 5,000 square feet on the hospital’s third floor. Per its 2014 letter of intent with the state, the hospital estimated the project to cost around $1.2 million.
“When a patient’s behaviors get to where their caregivers can’t control them anymore, they can come to us,” Gay said. “We can adjust their medication, observe their behaviors, get them on the right track. Patients will typically be here 10- 14 days, so it’s not a long-term site – we’re getting them through that acute crisis – and then we will work with getting them the right resources. We want to make sure they leave here better than when we received them,” Gay added. “It’s an amazing service.”
Gay has worked in the nursing field for almost eight years – but health care wasn’t always on her radar. She attended Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and originally received her bachelor’s in business administration. But after a few years working in that field, she wanted to do more. So back to school it was – Gay graduated from Motlow State Community College with her nursing degree in 2007.
“I wanted a career path where I could make a difference. I wanted to help people,” she said. “There’s a huge need for behavioral health care. It’s something that 20-30 years ago people didn’t even talk about. It’s definitely a rewarding field,” she added. “You’re able to go home every night feeling like you made a positive difference in someone’s life.”
Prior to joining River Park, Gay worked at Middle Tennessee Medical Center (MTMC), Stones River Hospital in Woodbury and TrustPoint Hospital in Murfreesboro, serving as nurse manager of their behavioral health unit.
As director of Serenity, Gay will oversee the staff and work closely with Dr. Badshah Maitra, a practicing psychiatrist in Warren County, as well as ensure patients are kept engaged and involved and have all the resources they might need post-stay.
“One of the things we’re also really going to focus on is the families, who is also in crisis,” she said. “It’s not just treating the patient; we’re helping the family members navigate through this as well.”
And awareness is key. She said staff work with others in the greater Warren County area to spread the word about the new service.
“There’s that stigma. Even though mental health care has come a long way, we still have a lot of room to grow. And education is a huge part,” Gay said. “Getting the resources out there, talking to people, just telling them what our program is, what we do, what services we provide. And providing excellent care, so hopefully people in the community talk and share.”
Mandy Gay is director of Serenity Behavioral Health, a new behavioral health unit at River Park Hospital in McMinnville. For more information, visit www.riverparkhospital.com.