Erlanger asking for permission to build $25 million behavioral health hospital

The entrance sign for Erlanger Medical Center is located on the east side of the facility on Third Street near the intersection with Central Avenue.

Erlanger Health System is asking the state for permission to build a $25 million behavioral health hospital that eventually would employ 200 people, according to hospital officials.

The 72,000-square-foot facility would be located at the intersection of North Holtzclaw Avenue and Citico Avenue, about a mile east of the main Erlanger campus and about the same distance from Parkridge Medical Center and CHI Memorial hospital.

Erlanger officials must obtain permission to build the new hospital from the state Health Services and Development Agency, which decides whether new medical facilities are needed and appropriate.

Erlanger Senior Vice President for Planning, Analytics and Business Development Joe Winick said Friday he is optimistic the facility will be approved.

"Statistics show that probably 50 percent or more of the people in the community who have a mental health or behavioral health condition do not get care," Winick said Friday. "The need is huge."

Winick said more elderly people are facing issues such as depression and dementia, and the number of adolescents suffering from bipolar disorder or considering suicide is increasing. Many veterans also report difficulty receiving treatment for mental health issues.

"Many of our patients with mental health issues often seek care in our emergency rooms as a last resort, due largely to the limited number of mental health services in our community," said Dr. Jennie Mahaffey, chief of behavioral health medicine at Erlanger.

About 10,000 of the patients treated at Erlanger's emergency room last year had both medical and behavioral issues, Winick said. And while the medical problems were addressed, "the behavioral health issue often goes untreated."

Winick said Erlanger hoped to hear whether its proposal is approved by the end of June. He said construction could be completed and the facility up and running by the end of 2017.

Erlanger will partner with Nashville-based Acadia Healthcare, a for-profit corporation that operates 585 behavioral health centers worldwide, in a joint venture to operate and fund the new hospital, according to a memo distributed earlier this week to Erlanger employees.

When the new facility is complete, Erlanger will reassign 12 beds at Erlanger North, its facility in Red Bank, which now handles behavioral health patients, Winick said.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson, sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, 423-757-6673, on Twitter @stevejohnsontfp, or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/noogahealth.