The state needs to listen to those most impacted

All this week, testimony is being heard on the appeal of the state’s denial of a Certificate of Need for the proposed behavioral hospital in Newnan.

Let’s hope the appeal panel, separate from the Georgia Department of Community Health, which denied the appeal, is listening. Because we have no idea how the state thinks we don’t need more mental health facilities and treatment in this area.

First, a little background. Back in 2013, US HealthVest announced its desire to reform the abandoned hospital 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 denied the CON for the proposed facility – citing a lack of need in the defined service area.

The big opponent to the CON was Tanner Health System, which cited that blanket “lack of need.” The Carroll County-based hospital said its inpatient facility, Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica, currently provides 52 beds, with separate units for adults, children and adolescents.

Let’s be blunt. Tanner doesn’t want any competition.

But, hopefully, the state will listen to some pretty big names testifying in Atlanta this week who are adamant Coweta County needs a behavioral hospital.

Joy Shirley, director of aging with Three Rivers Regional Commission, said, “There is no program in our region that serves geriatric mental health and many are not willing to make a trip to Atlanta.”

Dr. Jeffrey Folk, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Piedmont Newnan Hospital, pointed out the lack of a local behavioral hospital is straining operations of his hospital’s emergency rooms.

Folk’s assessment was echoed by Andy Steele, senior director of emergency services at Piedmont Fayette: “Because these patients don’t meet standard admission criteria and since we can’t place them outside, they remain in the ER.”

Coweta State Court Judge John Herbert Cranford pointed out existing facilities already are backed up. And Sheriff Mike Yeager highlighted the excessive manpower his office uses to transport patients out of the county. “A hospital in our community would possibly remove us as step in the healing process,” he said.

Even more letters of support from the county and city of Newnan governments, as well as other vested authorities, have been sent. As this editorial is being written, Newnan Mayor Keith Brady is testifying.

We want to thank everyone who has taken time out to write letters or speak at the hearing. Rarely has there been a proposed project with so much support from so many different factions in our community.

Let’s just hope the appeals board listens to the local affected community leaders.



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