Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital nears completion

Dr. Jeffrey Woods, left, division president for Acadia Healthcare, leads a tour through the new Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

Elected officials and the business community got a preview Tuesday of the new Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital at the corner of Holtzclaw and Citico avenues, which likely will begin admitting adult patients by the end of the month.

When completely open, the 88-bed facility will offer a spectrum of psychiatric treatment for ages ranging from children to seniors, including inpatient services, partial hospital programs and intensive outpatient programs for mental illness and substance use disorders. Officials said they expect the facility to be at full operation by the end of 2018.

photo Kevin Spiegel, President and CEO for the Erlanger Health System, speaks during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital on June 5, 2018.

Dr. Jennie Mahaffey, chief medical officer for the Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital, called the event a "celebration of a new era in behavioral health care for Chattanooga."

"This is a gorgeous facility with state-of-the-art fixtures and architecture to prevent self-harm," Mahaffey said. "It is adorned with artwork of Chattanooga throughout the building that was hand picked by the Erlanger Arts Committee. Our future patients will enjoy beautiful, comfortable surroundings as we assist them along their journey to recovery."

To develop and operate the facility, Erlanger has partnered with Acadia Healthcare, based in Franklin, Tennessee. Acadia is the nation's largest mental health and addiction treatment provider with more than 200 hospitals and facilities across the country.

Dr. Jeffrey Woods, division president for Acadia Healthcare, said unlike some older behavioral health facilities, the new hospital is built with "patient dignity" in mind.

"For far too long, behavioral health had been treated as sort of a second class of treatment. Patients who have behavioral health, psychiatric illnesses have a very difficult time accessing care that is comprehensive and meaningful for them, and as a consequence the facilities that have generally been available to them have not been purpose-built for psychiatry," Woods said.

Although this facility alone won't fix the shortage of mental health providers that affects both Chattanooga and the nation, Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel said it will help to address the community's "desperate need" for more services.

In the past year, more than 11,500 Erlanger patients had mental health conditions that needed treatment. Almost 7,000 of those patients were admitted through the emergency department, Spiegel said, adding that he hopes to eventually expand the new hospital to about 120 beds.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.