June 1st, 2017

Vacant building in Westborough to become behavioral hospital

Later this year, Westborough will become the site of a new behavioral health care hospital. In April, selectmen in the town gave approval for the construction of a facility that will better serve the mental health care needs in Central Massachusetts.

Francisco Torres, Westborough’s economic development coordinator, reported that Signature Healthcare, which is based in Corona, California, approached the town approximately a year ago with a proposal to renovate a long-vacant building at 300 Friberg Parkway.

The property, which formerly housed Verizon and Bay State Gas prior to that, was originally intended to serve as a campus for the College of New England. The property had been vacant for several years, according to Torres.

Torres explained that Signature Healthcare is a parent company and owns and operates behavioral healthcare hospitals around the country. “They have one in Chicago, one in Arizona and multiple facilities in the state of California. Each one is assigned a unique name. This one will be Westborough Behavioral Healthcare Hospital,” he said. “This is their first hospital in the New England area.”

When Signature presented its plans for the hospital, selectmen unanimously approved the renovation project. Once the company received the green light, it moved quickly and has made significant renovations and several upgrades to the building, according to Torres. “They expanded the size of the building and created different quarters for patient needs. It’s a beautiful location,” he said.

Signature Healthcare has proved to be a good neighbor throughout the entire proposal and permitting process. Torres applauds the spirit of cooperation the company has displayed since proposing the project. “I admire [Signature’s] desire to work with local businesses from construction companies to pharmacies and landscapers. They want to be involved in the community and are taking the initiative,” said Torres.

Initially, some members of the community called selectmen to voice concern about potential fire and police issues, according to Torres. “But Westborough Behavioral Health Services has been good about communicating with the town. We’ve been working out all the issues and have a good working relationship,” he said. “The town is excited to see this company make an investment in the town,” he said.

Gregory Brownstein, chief operating officer of the Westborough Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, has been managing the entire project from build-out to hiring staff. He reported that once the facility is completely renovated it will occupy 90,000 square feet on three floors.

“There will be 152 beds over nine units,” he said, reporting that providers will include a variety of mental health professionals. “We will be using a multidisciplinary team approach to treating our patients.”

Specific services and programs have not yet been identified, according to Brownstein. “We are still finalizing the services, but they may include child and adolescent, dual diagnosis, adult and possibly other populations,” he said. “In addition to inpatient services, we will have partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs.”

The opioid crisis in the Bay State prompted some discussions about services to address this problem, Torres said. “However, this hospital will not necessarily be looking at the opioid crisis, but will focus on behavioral health,” he said, although he admits there is a reported connection between behavioral health and the opioid crisis.

Brownstein indicated that the new facility hopes to begin accepting patients in late July or early August. “We also anticipate accepting both public and private payers, including Medicare, MassHealth, commercial payers and others,” he said.

By Phyllis Hanlon

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