July 1st, 2015

New Dartmouth facility nears completion

A 120-bed inpatient behavioral health hospital being built in Dartmouth, Mass., is slated to be completed in August and the 77,000-square-foot facility will feature five units on a 23-plus acre campus.

The construction of Southcoast Behavioral Health is expected to be completed Aug. 1, after which the hospital will have a “soft” opening, serving a limited number of patients as it goes through the licensing and accreditation process, said William A. Parsons Jr., CEO of the new facility. The project is a partnership between Southcoast Health, a local non-profit healthcare provider and Acadia Healthcare, a national provider of psychiatric and addiction care based in Tennessee.

The $30 million project is expected to create 250-280 jobs, and positions are already being filled, Parsons said.
The five units are expected to be 24 beds each and serve the following populations: acute psychiatric patients, such as those suffering from psychosis; the less acute population, such as those suffering from mood disorders; dual-diagnosis patients; the adolescent population; and a geriatric unit.

While the hospital is an inpatient facility, Parsons said partial programs will also be developed, so that patients can transition from inpatient to day services. “In an acute care hospital, you have the opportunity to stabilize the patient, then the partial program gives you the opportunity to work with them a little longer to help make their transition more successful,” he said.

Intensive outpatient services will also be offered.

Parsons said the hospital will help fill a need in the southeastern Massachusetts region. “One of the things that attracted Acadia to this region is the fact that Southcoast Health had some of the busiest emergency rooms in the country, relative to the size of the community,” he said. “We know that many visits to the emergency department are behavioral health related.”

Behavioral health patients make up eight percent of the Southcoast Emergency Department volume, but their care makes up 30 percent of all direct care hours in the department, Parsons said.

Southcoast’s St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford has 30 beds for behavioral health patients, and has been relatively full most days, he said.

“When new patients come into the emergency room, there is really no place for them to go, and they may end up boarding in the emergency department for relatively long periods of time,” Parsons said. The additional beds will help relieve the pressure on the system’s emergency departments.

Parsons said the hospital campus offers a variety of areas for activity and also for quiet reflection. “I’ve been impressed by how much space we have, and not just physical space inside the building, but outdoor courtyard space,” Parsons said. “I’ve never been in a facility that has as much outdoor space.”

Each unit will have a comfort or “sensory” room, he said, with dimmable lighting, soft music, and comfortable seating areas. Hospital walls will be decorated with work from local artists. “It’s really going to help people feel more comfortable in their surroundings.”

By Pamela Berard

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