Appeal for behavioral facility Monday
by Clay Neely
An appeal hearing for the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital is scheduled to begin Monday at the Georgia Department of Community Health offices in Atlanta.
The Certificate of Need appeal panel is an entirely separate entity from the Georgia Department of Community Health, which denied the original certificate.
In 2013, US HealthVest announced its desire to reform the unused facility on Hospital Road into a mental health and behavioral hospital for Newnan and Coweta County. The proposed Behavioral Hospital was to hold 60 beds for inpatient care, including 10 reserved for active duty military and veterans.
However, in December of last year, the state panel denied the CON for the proposed facility – citing a lack of need in the defined service area.
Following the denial, US Healthvest received letters of support written from members and citizens of both the city of Newnan and Coweta.
"I can attest that there is a huge void in the availability of behavioral healthcare services in the proposed service area,” said Dr. Jeffrey Folk, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Piedmont Newnan Hospital. “Efforts to secure a bed for adults is more often delayed, sometimes up to 100 hours as recently was the case.”
In a Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Piedmont Newnan Hospital, a key health finding was the prevalence of poor mental health within the community – noting that throughout 2013, Coweta adults will have reported 3.7 poor mental health days each month, according to the County Health Rankings.
“This is higher than both state and national averages,” Piedmont officials stated in the report. “Over the last five years, mental and behavioral disorders were the seventh leading cause of emergency department visits. This is an aggregate and does not include the ramifications of violent outbursts, such as assault.”
“Twenty-nine percent of high schoolers reported having been sad or hopeless in 2009, with 8 percent attempting suicide while 14 percent made a plan as to how they could, even if not attempted,” officials stated in their findings. Suicide was the third-leading cause of premature death over a five-year aggregated period. Newnan Mayor Keith Brady also expressed his support for the facility, noting the job creation and the rapidly expanding population of Coweta County as key reasons.
“As the population continues to grow, the number of residents that need inpatient psychiatric care will also grow. Increasing the inpatient psych bed capacity in Coweta County, and especially Newnan, is critical in order to address the current and future needs of our community,” Brady said.
“Newnan Behavioral Hospital will also benefit the local community with the creation of approximately 200 jobs,” Brady said. “These positions will provide employment opportunities in health care services that serve Newnan and the surrounding areas.”
Tanner Health System has opposed the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital, citing, among other things, a lack of need for the facility, hospital officials said in a statement. The Carroll County-based hospital also criticized the percentage of non-insured patients the Newnan facility would see. It also raised concerns about the separation of different age groups.
Tanner said its inpatient facility, Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica, currently provides 52 beds, with separate units for adults, children and adolescents. Officials said they have ample space to serve the community’s needs. Tom Freeman, president of the Lighthouse Counseling Center, disagrees.
“A local psychiatric hospital would be welcomed by our office. It would provide the citizens of Coweta, Fayette, Troup, Heard and Meriwether counties local access to needed psychiatric services,” said Freeman. “Newnan Behavioral plans to offer services for children and the elderly. Both are sorely needed services in our area. Children often have to go to north Atlanta or Riverdale for services. Having these services locally would increase utilization and provide significant help for this population.”
“Currently, we have to send patients to Atlanta hospitals an hour away for assessment and hospitalization. Our clients must wait hours if they must be assessed in the local emergency room. A local facility would eliminate or reduce this wait,” said Freeman.
Newnan Behavioral Hospital’s parent group, US HealthVest, provides specialized psychiatric care services, including substance abuse treatment, through inpatient and outpatient programs. The company is based in the United States.