Samaritan Medical Center Announces Expansion of Emergency Department Behavioral Health Secure Unit

Watertown, NY – Samaritan’s emergency department (ED) will undergo a construction project to expand and enhance the care of psychiatric patients within the secure behavioral health unit (BHU).  The expansion is needed as the average daily census of patients has been consistently exceeding physical space.  The project is set to cost $2.5 million dollars and construction has begun.

Looking to the past:
In 2010 when we opened our modern ED a five-bed BHU secure unit was sufficient to meet the average daily census. Two overflow rooms were identified near the secure BHU that could be used when needed.  This left 31 remaining medical beds in the ED for a total of 38 beds in the entire department.  The psychiatric patient numbers have continued to climb over the years and prior to the pandemic in 2020 the average daily census was approximately seven patients.

Present condition:
The average daily census of psychiatric patients in the past 12 months has grown to approximately eight patients, with a high of over 20 patients at one time. There has been an increase in pediatric patients needing care.  This number collectively exceeds our secure unit and overflow capacity, which forces these patients into medical beds within the emergency department. This has two immediate impacts – there are fewer beds to treat medical patients and more staff members are needed to watch psychiatric patients in these medical rooms because there are inherent equipment and safety risks in a traditional medical room. 

Coupled with an increase in patient census, these patients, especially children, are waiting longer in our ED when they need hospitalization.  The current physical space to help safely stabilize these patients is not adequate within the emergency department’s current behavioral health unit (BHU).

The increased number of adults and children in a mental health crisis can be attributed to many factors, but there is not one particular trend.  The pandemic is certainly a newer factor with more stress, anxiety, isolation and breaks in outpatient care.  

Future solutions:
Samaritan leaders contacted the Department of Health (DOH) with our physical constraints and then decided to seek emergency approval on a Certificate of Need (CON) that identified the space we need. The full approval process can take up to 12 months, but the state quickly approved it.

Construction is now underway to expand to a 12-bed secure unit to meet the needs of the community and the ED will have 29 medical beds.  To gain this space, the current coffee shop in the main lobby will move to a different space in the lobby, as well as moving physician office space and claiming hallway space in the lobby area.  This will happen in a phased approach to limit the impact to current operations.  The project is expected to be completed by the Summer of 2024.

The BHU expansion project is set to cost $2.5 million dollars.  This was not budgeted for in 2023 but has been deemed necessary as a matter of patient safety concerns and to mitigate extra staffing needs. Several revenue sources have been identified, and Samaritan continues to look for grant dollars to help offset the construction costs.  The Samaritan Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network of Northern New York, and Jefferson County have all committed funds totaling approximately $793,000. 

The Samarian Foundation committed half of the net proceeds from its recent Thousand Islands Golf Tournament in June to the project for a total of just over $60,000. In addition, the Foundation is going to dedicate proceeds from an event later this year, Festival of Trees, to the project as well.

The Children’s Miracle Network of Northern New York and its allocations committee designated $300,000 to the project because there is a direct pediatric care need to this expansion.

On April 4, 2023, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators approved a request from Jefferson County Community Services to provide $430,000 to Samaritan Medical Center for this expansion project.  The funds have been made available as a result of the New York State Attorney General’s successful litigation with several pharmaceutical companies.  The $430,000 is designated to assist with the physical expansion of the behavioral health unit, which has experienced dramatic increases in opiate-related visits.  The funding will also be used to begin the important service of providing lifesaving, medication assisted therapies to those who need medical assistance to begin their journey to recovery.  

Samaritan is also applying for an expansion to our adult inpatient mental health unit from 34 to 39 beds. This request has been submitted to the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) as they oversee the operations of this inpatient unit. This expansion is needed since we are consistently at full capacity in this unit, as 50% of the adults coming into the emergency department for a mental health crisis are admitted to Samaritan for stabilization and a treatment plan. This project will cost approximately one million dollars.

“Our region continues to battle the mental health crisis needs in this rural community,” states Tom Carman, president and chief executive officer of Samaritan.  “Although there are many community-based programs, the need for emergent care through our emergency department, and transferring from other local hospitals who do not have this level of care, consistently surpasses a safe space for us to care for these patients in the existing physical footprint. The need to expand this secure unit has a trickle-down impact that helps these patients, plus the overall wait times for medical patients. The funding will also be used to begin the important service of providing lifesaving, medication assisted therapies (MAT) to those who need medical assistance to begin their journey to recovery.”

Emergency Department Behavioral Health Numbers:

From January 2022 to June 2023, 946 children presented to our emergency department for a behavioral health crisis.  Samaritan does not have an inpatient pediatric mental health unit, and those children needing to be hospitalized must be transferred to a facility with capacity in New York State.

  • 273 of these children were deemed in need of hospitalization and transferred to a higher level of care.
  • Pediatric patients had an average length of stay of 30 hours in 2021 and 35 hours in 2022, with a peak of over 72.  This is caused by a shortage of pediatric beds across the region and state. Children are waiting longer in our BHU and the new space will be more child-centered.
  • Over 550 of these children were already established in outpatient behavioral health services in the community.

From January 2022 to June 2023, 3,461 adults presented to Samaritan’s Emergency Department for a behavioral health crisis. 

  • 1,746 of these patients were admitted to Samaritan’s inpatient mental health unit.
  • 210 of these patients were transferred to another facility for psychiatric care.
  • 1,388 of these patients were stabilized in the ED and discharged home to continue their care plans.
  • Adult patients average length of stay went from 12 hours in 2021 to 22 hours in 2022 and peaked at over 36 hours.

Overall, Samaritan’s emergency department cared for 35,570 patients (medical and psychiatric) in 2022.

Renderings of the new 12-bed secure unit being constructed in Samaritan’s emergency department.

Samaritan Summit Village to host Senior Living Seminar

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Summit Village, 22691 Campus Dr, is hosting a Senior Living Seminar on Wednesday, October 18, from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. The half-day seminar is free and open to anyone planning or helping to plan senior care. This is not an open house style event, we ask attendees to arrive prior to 1 p.m. to experience the entire program.

Hear from professionals in senior care, legal matters, financial planning, real estate, and speak with local community agencies that offer resources. Lunch is provided by First Command, and a tour of the Assisted Living facility at Samaritan Summit Village will be available. Each participant will be entered to win an iPad as well! No obligations.

Finding the right solution for long term care needs is important. Seniors and their loved ones want the right mix of services and support to preserve independence, maintain safety, and enhance quality of life. The Senior Living Seminar will provide information and resources needed to help seniors continue the lifestyle they love while providing options for the care that meets their individualized needs. 

An Assisting Living program provides nursing care, home care, personal care and meals for residents that require service above and beyond what is typically provided while living in the community. Samaritan Summit Village has 120 assisted living beds and features a home-like environment that is flexible, offering a range of housing and lifestyle options for personalized care in a residential setting.

Samaritan is committed to long term care in Northern New York. Our goal is to take care of people at all stages of life, providing the most appropriate level of care for each individual’s unique medical, physical, and emotional needs.

To learn more about Assisted Living at Samaritan Summit Village, visit


Samaritan Home Health has earned the 2022 SHPBest™ “Superior Performer” Patient Satisfaction Award

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Home Health has been recognized by Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP) as a “Superior Performer” for achieving an overall patient satisfaction score that ranked in the top 20 percent of all eligible SHP clients for the 2022 calendar year.

The annual SHPBest™ award program was created to acknowledge home health agencies that consistently provide high quality service to their patients. The 2022 award recipients were determined by reviewing and ranking the overall satisfaction score for more than 3,200 home health providers. With the largest HHCAHPS benchmark in the nation, SHP is in a unique position to identify and recognize organizations that have made patient satisfaction a priority and have been rewarded for their efforts with high marks on the HHCAHPS survey.

“SHP is very excited to have the opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of our top-performing customers with the annual SHPBest awards. We commend these organizations for their determination to provide top-notch care to the patients and caregivers that they serve”, said Kevin Vogel, President of SHP.

Samaritan Home Health employs 24 staff members with an average daily patient census of 160. Director of Patient Services at Samaritan Home Health, Stephanie Parks, said, “We are proud to receive this award as it is a true representation of the patient’s perspective on the high-quality level of personalized care we offer.”

Read more about the SHPBest awards program, including methodology and award recipient lists at

About Samaritan Home Health
Samaritan Home Health provides skilled nursing and therapy services in patients’ homes throughout Jefferson County, NY. This comfortable alternative to inpatient care allows people to recover from an accident or illness in a familiar environment surrounded by family and friends. To learn more:

About Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP)
Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP) is a leader in data analytics and benchmarking that drive daily clinical and operational decisions. Our solutions bring real-time data to post-acute providers, hospitals, and ACOs to better coordinate quality care and improve patient outcomes. Since 1996, SHP has helped more than 7,000 organizations nationwide raise the bar for healthcare performance.

Samaritan Health System Announces Return to Required Face Mask Use in All Facilities

Watertown, NY – Based on an increase in COVID-19 positivity metrics Samaritan has made the cautious decision to require masking in all locations for staff, patients, and visitors until further notice. This decision comes from seeing an increase in positive cases in emergency department patients, hospital inpatients, employee cases, Jefferson County numbers of positive COVID-19 cases overall, and local wastewater testing. Holiday gatherings and the return to school are also of concern.

Hospital visitation will not change at this time. If any visitor chooses not to wear a mask, they will not be allowed to visit a patient or resident.  The goal is to keep the number of positive cases in our community minimal.  Samaritan is doing its part to protect our patients, residents, and staff, just as other facilities across the state and nation are doing.

Samaritan facilities will have “mask required” signs posted, and masks for use at entrances. Should metrics change and cases drop, we will replace the mask-required signs with mask-optional signs. This impacts the hospital, all clinics, and our long term care facilities.


Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Announced

Watertown, New York — Samaritan Medical Center Foundation of Northern New York is pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Susan Peters Scholarship. The 2023 scholarships awardees were Joseph Donoghue and Maegan Castle. Joseph is a Registered Nurse in the emergency department at Samaritan Medical Center and obtaining his Family Nurse Practitioner degree. Maegan is also a Registered Nurse in Samaritan’s intensive care unit and obtaining her Family Nurse Practitioner degree.

The Susan Peters Nursing Scholarship was established in 2018 to assist with the education costs for an RN who is continuing their education, specifically to pursue a Nurse Practitioner degree. Two scholarships of $2,000 are awarded each year.

Mrs. Peters graduated from the former House of the Good Samaritan School of Nursing and retired from Samaritan Medical Center as a Certified Oncology Nurse; prior to that, she had served as a staff RN and for more than 20 years as a Nurse Manager of Medical/Surgical, Orthopaedic and Alternate Level of Care Units. Susan Passed away in 2020.

Nurse Practitioners are able to provide many of the same services as physicians, including developing treatment plans for their patients, ordering tests, performing minor procedures, and prescribing medication.

For more information, please contact the Samaritan Medical Center Foundation at 315-785-4584, visit, or email


Pictured here, left to right, are Dr. Marie Hess, Susan Peters Scholarship Committee Member, Maegan Castle, Scholarship Recipient, Beth Fipps, VP, Foundation and Community Services, Joseph Donaghue, Scholarship Recipient, and Mary Dawley, Susan Peters Scholarship Committee Member.

Samaritan Health Starting System-Wide Point of Service Co-Payment Collection

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Health System is implementing a point of service co-payment collection in all its outpatient locations and services starting immediately. This means that Samaritan will collect co-payments for each outpatient service at the time of their visit. This practice is already in place by many other healthcare offices nationwide. The new procedure includes outpatient services at the main hospital, all offices and clinics, and lab and imaging service locations.

As these co-payment amounts vary based on individual insurance plans and the type of visit, you may need to contact your health insurance company to know how much to expect to pay at the time of your visit. Samaritan does not determine these amounts.

You will never be denied service for inability to pay, and our goal as always is to provide you with the best healthcare experience possible. Thank you for your patience and cooperation during this transition.

Co-payments will be accepted in cash, check, debit or credit, and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)/Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

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May and June 2023 DAISY® and BEE Awards Recipients

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Medical Center is pleased to announce its DAISY and BEE Award recipients for May and June 2023. The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses® recognizes exemplary nursing staff, and the BEE Award honors other outstanding staff members who support patient care, at the hospital and all outpatient clinics.

Chelsea Whalen, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in the Car-Freshner Center for Women and Children, received the DAISY Award for May. Randy Halaburka, reprographics and storage coordinator, received the BEE Award for May. Jayme Rosso, Licensed Practical Nurse at the Walker Center for Cancer Care, received the DAISY Award for June. Tiffany Towsley, a nursing assistant (NA) at 4 Pavilion at Samaritan Medical Center, received the BEE award for June.

A grateful patient nominated Whalen for the May DAISY award, saying:

“Chelsea always took the time to thoroughly answer my questions related to healing and caring. All of the nurses, aids, and doctors cared for us well during our stay, but Chelsea demonstrated an extraordinary level of compassion for our family. We will forever be grateful!”

The grateful family of a patient nominated Rosso for the June DAISY award, saying:

“Oncology requires a special person to make those with such a devastating and often debilitating diagnosis feel safe and secure. She not only accompanies those to their room but also sits beside them with her gentle touch. She is a gentle nurse with a gentle heart.”

For receiving the DAISY Award – which is an international award backed by The DAISY Foundation – Whalen and Rosso were presented with certificates commending them as extraordinary nurses, DAISY Award pins, and symbolic sculptures called “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe. A larger version of this sculpture has also been installed in the Healing Gardens at Samaritan Medical Center in honor of all DAISY and BEE Award winners to come. It was purchased using funds donated by the Samaritan Auxiliary.

After receiving an overwhelming 20 nominations from his co-workers, a first in the history of this coveted award, Halaburka was presented with the May BEE award.

Randy, who sadly passed away in July, served Samaritan for over 37 years in various roles as our first courier, records management, and oversight of our bustling print shop. He was nominated for his work ethic, quick response, careful eye, and need to produce quality work. He will not be forgotten.

The family of a patient of 4 Pavilion at Samaritan Medical Center nominated Towsley for the June BEE award, saying:

“This was a very difficult time for my mom but when she mentioned Tiffany, she smiled and asked if she was back tonight. She said she was so reassured, knowing she was being cared for by someone that truly cares for her patients. It isn’t Tiffany’s job, it’s her calling.”

Halaburka and Towsley were presented with certificates, BEE Award pins, and gift bags with other tokens of gratitude.

Both awards will continue to be presented throughout the year, and patients, families, or colleagues can submit nominations at any time. To nominate or learn more about the Samaritan DAISY and BEE Awards, visit

From left, Chelsea Whalen, LPN, and Jayme Rosso, LPN, are DAISY award recipients. Randy Halaburka, reprographics and storage coordinator, pictured with his loved ones, and Tiffany Towsley, NA, are BEE award recipients.


About Samaritan Medical Center
Samaritan Medical Center (Watertown, New York) is a 290-bed not-for-profit community medical center, offering a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient healthcare services. From primary and emergency care to highly specialized medical and surgical services, such as cancer treatment, neonatal intensive care, behavioral health and addiction services, and imaging services, Samaritan Medical Center and its team of healthcare professionals proudly serves the medical needs of our civilian and military community. Quality, compassion, and safety are the basic principles by which exceptional care is delivered at Samaritan.

About The DAISY Foundation
The DAISY Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, by members of his family. Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.) The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families. In addition to the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, the Foundation expresses gratitude to the nursing profession internationally in over 3,900 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing with recognition of direct care Nurses, Nurse-led Teams, Nurse Leaders, Nursing Faculty, Nursing Students, through the J. Patrick Barnes Grants for Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Projects and for nurses participating in medical missions. More information is available at

North Country Festival of Trees Ramps Up for Holiday Season

Watertown, NY – A North Country Festival of Trees will once again kick off the holiday season offering an online tree auction from Friday, November 24 – Sunday, December 3, 2023 and public viewing November 24 – 28, and November 29 – December 3, 2023, at the Salmon Run Mall. This year’s theme is peace, love, and joy. All trees on display are hand-decorated by community members and can be bid on for individual purchase or donation.

The Festival of Trees committee is now welcoming sponsors and tree decorators. More information on both of these opportunities can be found at, or by calling 315-785-5745. Please sign-up today!

A North Country Festival of Trees benefits healthcare services and programs at Samaritan Medical Center and children’s scholarships at the Watertown Family YMCA. The festival schedule is as follows:

Public Viewing: Trees will be on display for public viewing at the Salmon Run Mall November 24 – 28, and November 29 – December 3, 2023. Please visit for details.

Online Tree Auction: From November 24 – December 3, 2023, trees will be up for bid on our online tree auction site –

Live Auction and Gala: Select trees will be part of the live auction at the Gala on December 1, 2023.

We will announce additional details as the event draws closer.

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Samaritan Announces Mask-Optional Emergency Department and Walker Center for Cancer Care

Watertown, NY – On July 11, 2023, the remaining Samaritan departments will now be mask-optional for all staff, patients, and visitors under certain criteria. This decision comes after closely watching transmission levels of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, declining COVID-19 hospitalization and infection rates, declining influenza and respiratory illness rates, and other supporting indicators.  Samaritan now safely offers a mask-optional environment in all areas and facilities, however if any of these metrics have an uptick, we could return to wearing facemasks. 

The following use of face masks will be asked of patients and visitors:

  • In the Emergency Department, if a patient or patient’s visitors come to the Emergency Department with any respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, sneezing) or a fever they will be asked to wear a face mask following our infection prevention practices.
  • In the Walker Center for Cancer Care, because of the weakened immune systems of the patients served, we ask that anyone visiting the Center with any respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, sneezing) or a fever wear a face mask.

Patients, visitors and/or healthcare personnel are to follow masking practices per unit/department when specifically indicated. Though numbers are declining, respiratory illnesses are still active, and, for the health and safety of the community, we reserve the right to require any patient in any area who has signs or symptoms of respiratory illness or COVID-19 to wear a facemask as per Samaritan’s source control policy.

Visitors who are not feeling well or have been in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to stay home and cannot visit patients or accompany patients to appointments.   


Two Samaritan Medical Center Surgeons Reach 500th Robotic Surgery Milestone

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Medical Center announces the achievement of a significant milestone for two of its general surgeons who perform robotic surgery with the da Vinci Xi system. Dr. Eduardo Barayuga and Dr. Daniel Bryden each completed their 500th robotic surgery recently. The occasions were marked with a celebration with the surgical team.

“It’s humbling that this has happened,” Dr. Barayuga said. “The one thing that I’m proud of our program is we are doing it even in emergency cases, we are able to do it 24/7. We are able to use it even in emergency cases, which is a big benefit.”

Since the da Vinci robot was introduced at Samaritan Medical Center in 2012, more than 3,700 cases have been completed using it. In addition to general surgery options such as cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal), hernia repair, colon, and anti-reflux surgeries, gynecological surgery, and urologic surgery are also completed using the robot.

Robotic-assisted surgery is a minimally invasive approach that takes surgery beyond the limits of the human hand and eye. It enhances the surgeon’s skill by providing a magnified, three-dimensional view of the surgery site while translating the surgeon’s hand movements into corresponding micro-movements of the instruments inside the patient’s body. The benefits of robotic-assisted surgery include less pain, less scarring, less blood loss, shorter hospital stays and recovery time, reduced risk of complications, and a faster return to normal daily activities.

To learn more about robotic surgery and our surgeons, visit

Dr. Daniel Bryden (L) and Dr. Eduardo Barayuga (R) are pictured here receiving milestone awards from Operating Room staff.