Kaleida Health has stopped new admissions to its behavioral health program and has notified employees they will have to find new jobs within the hospital system or elsewhere.

Erie County Medical Center and Kaleida Health last year announced a $25.3 million plan to consolidate mental health and chemical dependency services at ECMC’s Grider Street campus.

Kaleida Health’s behavioral health program originally included 91 inpatient beds. Forty-eight beds will be transferred to ECMC and 43 beds will be decertified. Currently, the program maintains 47 beds, of which 25 are filled by patients.

With the lower number of patients, however, staffing issues have arisen recently as nurses and other workers have taken jobs elsewhere in Kaleida Health.

“We’re stopping admissions sooner than we anticipated primarily because of the staffing challenges, and phasing out the program in anticipation of the consolidation,” said Michael Hughes, spokesman for Kaleida Health.

The 88 remaining employees – nurses, social workers and mental health counselors – can bump less-senior workers in other departments, float to different jobs depending on need or seek employment elsewhere, he said.

Cori Gambini, president of CWA Local 1168, which represents many Kaleida Health workers, said she hopes an agreement can be reached to offer the employees training for new positions in Kaleida Health.

“Employees in the program started taking other jobs as they opened up,” she said. “It got to the point where there was so little dedicated staff that they couldn’t safely take care of the patients.”

The new Center of Excellence in Behavioral Health, scheduled to open in January, will include an expanded emergency behavioral health facility, increasing from 6,500 square feet to 18,000 square feet, as well as an 18,000-square-foot outpatient center.

The center will be able to quickly triage patients to various services, which should make the facility operate smoothly, said Rich Cleland, ECMC’s chief operating officer.

The combined program also will include an 180-bed inpatient psychiatric program that will begin operations in phases, starting in September, as well as 22 detoxification beds and 20 inpatient chemical dependency rehabilitation beds.

ECMC and Kaleida Health received a $15 million state grant to help pay for construction. The organizations are funding the remaining cost.

The project is the third major initiative between the organizations to consolidate services under the Great Lakes Health System of Western New York.

The other initiatives integrated their cardiac services on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and developed a Regional Center of Excellence for Transplantation & Kidney Care on ECMC’s campus.

In 2006, the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission, ordered ECMC and Kaleida Health to form a unified governance structure that included the University at Buffalo to consolidate some high-end services to improve quality and efficiency. Their agreement led to the formation of the parent organization known as Great Lakes Health.