Certificate of Need hearing

Newnan mayor speaks to demand for behavioral health

by Clay Neely


Photo by Clay Neely

Mayor Keith Brady was asked to describe the current landscape of available health services in Newnan.

(Editor’s note: An appeals hearing on the state Certificate of Need for a behavioral hospital proposed for the old Piedmont Newnan campus in Newnan adjourned Thursday until July 10. A photo of Newnan resident Robert Hancock with coverage of the hearing on Thursday’s front page was incorrectly identified as Col. David Sutherland, co-founder and chairman for the Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, who testified Wednesday.)

Newnan Mayor Keith Brady testified on behalf of a proposed behavioral hospital during Thursday’s session of a Certificate of Need appeal hearing in Atlanta.

Brady was asked to describe the relationship between Coweta and Carroll County in regards to competition for resources.

“I think we have shown that we stepped up to the plate when we provided the University of West Georgia with the new facility,” Brady said of the current construction project to transform the old Newnan Hospital facilities on Jackson Street into a satellite campus for the university.

When asked why he believed that UWG chose to locate a new university center in Newnan, Brady stated it was simply a matter of viewing the growth that the region is experiencing.

“They see the location – a campus that’s almost directly in downtown Newnan and they want to be a part of that,” Brady said.

Brady also spoke to the recent controversy regarding the naming rights of the nursing school located on the new UWG campus ­– citing that many citizens felt that because Tanner had objected to any kind of medical expansion in the Coweta County area in the past, this was certainly a source of contention.

During a meeting with Roy Howard, CEO of Tanner, Brady recalled the conversation between the two concerning Coweta’s desire to support the Newnan Behavioral Hospital due to the growing demand for this particular type of treatment.

“Howard even made the comment that he personally recognized the need for behavioral health care in Coweta County,” Brady said. “Obviously, I was surprised that he would say that considering his objection to the Certificate of Need for the Newnan Behavioral Hospital.”

However, when Brady asked him if he would he be willing to go back to Carrollton and retire from the objection to the Certificate Of Need, he simply said “no.”

“When I asked him why not, he smiled and wouldn’t answer,” stated Brady.

Brady was asked to address the factor distance plays in terms of patients seeking behavioral health – specifically in regards to what a typical route to Tanner’s facility in Villa Rica would be.

Brady estimated that by following Hwy. 16 to Hwy. 5, it would be a 45-minute journey, depending on the traffic.

A representative from Tanner then asked Brady if he was aware that 55 percent of Newnan residents leave their city for their daily commute.

“I suppose so,” Brady responded. “I don’t have those exact figures in front of me.”

As a long-time resident of Coweta County, Brady was asked to give his opinion in regards to the growth of the healthcare industry in the region.

“The healthcare landscape in our community has changed dramatically over the last five years and it has changed the health habits of the residents,” Brady said.

The migration of patients seeking medical assistance in Atlanta has decreased, Brady believes – speaking to the presence that the new campus for Piedmont Newnan Hospital plays and the location in Newnan of Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Southeastern Regional Medical Center where patients travel on a national scale to seek care.

Like many representatives who have testified this week on behalf of the proposed mental health hospital, Brady feels that while Newnan is close to becoming the healthcare mecca it aspires to be, one essential component is missing.

“I think the reason we’re all sitting here today is to be able to continue providing quality healthcare to all of our citizens,” Brady said. “The need for quality behavioral health is greatly needed among our community, especially for our veterans.”

Also speaking at the appeal hearing session Thursday was Matthew Winchester, chief executive officer of RiverWoods Behavioral Health, located in Riverdale.

Winchester said that while RiverWoods can treat many of the symptoms from which many veterans suffer, such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and major depression, his facility does not have a specific program set up for veterans.

The question was posed to Winchester:”Don’t military members have very specific needs – needs that differ from the general population?”

“I feel that’s an overgeneralization,” Winchester said. “Its important to look at individual needs.”

Winchester, a resident of Peachtree City, was asked his opinion on what role physical distance from a facility plays in terms of the recovery of a patient and the hardships that can be avoided.

Council representing Newnan Behavioral Health asked Winchester if family is ever encouraged to be involved during a patient’s healing process.

“I would agree with that,” Winchester said.

“Would you say that distance can play an important factor in their recovery,” council asked.

“Not necessarily,” Winchester said. “It’ doesn’t matter. If someone needs me to be there, it doesn’t matter if it takes me five minutes or an hour – I’ll be there.”

When asked if a facility was located closer to a patient’s home, wouldn’t it make it more likely for families to participate?

Winchester stated that he didn’t know.

Taffey Bisbee, a health care facilitator speaking on behalf of the opponents of the proposed Newnan facility, feels that the service area proposed by Newnan Behavioral Hospital is too small to serve a mental health facility.

Bisbee agreed that while Tanner is a statewide provider that is currently pulling less than 7 percent of their patients from their own service area, she still doesn’t believe there is a sufficient need for the Newnan Behavioral Hospital.

“Due to the stigma attached to behavioral health, I think that members of these smaller, more rural communities in the proposed service area would prefer to travel for their needs rather than be treated in their own areas,” she said.

The Certificate of Need appeal for Newnan Behavioral Hospital adjourned on Thursday and will reconvene on Thursday, July 10.

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