Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals across the country have experienced an unprecedented surge in patients seeking care for mental health and substance use disorders. This continuous influx, coupled with a shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds and clinical staff, has led to emergency room capacity challenges nationally. To help alleviate this issue and provide a more therapeutic, patient-centered environment at Anna Jaques Hospital (AJH), a fundraising campaign is currently underway to expand and enhance behavioral health services in the Emergency Department (ED). Among its lead supporters, the Mary P. Barton Charitable Foundation has generously donated $125,000 to the effort. 

The primary focus of the $1.5 million fundraising initiative is to create a dedicated and secure Behavioral Health Unit embedded in the ED. This new six-bed unit will provide a private and safe space for patients as they are stabilized, evaluated, and triaged to an appropriate care setting. Included in the fundraising effort will be a staffing plan that utilizes dedicated behavioral health professionals, along with specialized safety training for all members of the ED team. “The need for additional behavioral health services is at an all-time high,” says Ted Shepard, Trustee of the Mary P. Barton Charitable Foundation. “We recognize the vital impact that Anna Jaques Hospital makes in our community, and we share their commitment to ensuring that everyone locally can access the care they need, close to home.” 

Longtime supporters of AJH, the Mary P. Barton Charitable Foundation also made a significant gift in 2021 to bolster behavioral health services. Those funds helped add additional safety monitoring personnel for high-risk patients in the ED and introduce new training for staff. The foundation has also made two gifts, totaling more than $130,000, to the AJH Stepping Forward Campaign. A semi-private pre- and post-operative recovery room in the surgical area was named in Mary P. Barton’s honor at the time. “Mary was a trailblazer in terms of being an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman in our community,” says Grace Gonzalez Connolly, Chair of the AJH Board of Trustees and a partner at Connolly & Connolly, one of Newburyport’s oldest and most respected law firms. “She was known to be very charitable and civic-minded, which makes all these gifts to AJH in her name all the more meaningful.” 

Founded in 1999, the Mary P. Barton Charitable Foundation was established to honor the legacy of its namesake, the late Mary Plumer Barton. Born in Newburyport and a lifelong resident of Newbury, Barton was an active philanthropist and a well-known member of the community. “We are so grateful for support from the Mary P. Barton Foundation, which will help us continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care to all who come through our door,” says Peter Tura, MSN, RN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer. “In the Emergency Department, we see the rising incidence and severity of behavioral health needs in our community every day, so this gift comes at a pivotal time.” 



For more information on contributing to the ED Behavioral Health Unit, please contact Mary Williamson at or 978-463-1176.