A new behavioral health facility is about to open its door to mental health patients. On June 18, Erlanger Behavioral Health will begin serving clients in the Chattanooga area. 

The new $25-million project is on the corner of Holtzclaw and Citico Avenues. There will be 88 new beds inside the facility. It will be open for the elderly, adults, children, and veterans. The facility is an option for people seeking mental health needs.

“This will be an amazing addition for Chattanooga, to expand access to services here in our community,” said Jennie Mahaffey, Erlanger’s Chief Medical Officer.

The facility will offer inpatient rooms and outpatient care. It will serve mental health patients as well as people suffering from substance abuse.

“We will eventually take referrals from all different aspects of the community," Mahaffey said. "The emergency department will be a large referral source.”

Last year, Erlanger had to admit 7,000 patients who needed mental health care. The patients had to wait for beds to open up at other mental health institutes before getting treatment.

“Patients wait for hours sometimes days, often days in our ER waiting for beds in Chattanooga,” Mahaffey said.

The new hospital will start out with the 88 beds, but officials said that number will grow to meet the need, here in Chattanooga.

Erlanger Behavioral Health will do a soft opening, only accepting adults at first. Later this year, they will begin accepting pediatric patients.

Erlanger Behavioral Health seeks to provide increased access to much-needed psychiatric and addiction services within the local community.

Support at Erlanger will be available for a wide range of age groups, with 24 beds to be allocated for geriatric patients, 24 for adults, 18 for children and adolescents, and 22 for adult substance abuse patients.

UPDATE:  Erlanger Health Systems says that were notified that HCA has formally withdrawn their opposition to Erlanger's new 88-bed behavioral health hospital in Chattanooga.   

HCA owns Parkridge Valley Child and Adolescent Services and Parkridge Valley Adult and Senior Services in Chattanooga, and formally withdrew its appeal of the Certificate of Need granted to Erlanger, according to a news release.

Community need for the new behavioral health facility was supported by overwhelming evidence, according to Joe Winick, Senior Vice President at Erlanger. Winick said he “had filed three large boxes last month with thousands of pages of evidence demonstrating need for this project.” The new hospital, which will employ 200 staff members, is located at Holtzclaw and Citigo, and has an estimated project cost of $25 million. The project is a joint venture between Erlanger and Acadia Healthcare, based in Nashville. 
Zoning for the project has already been approved. Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, Erlanger President & CEO said he felt confident that a judge “would ultimately rule in Erlanger’s favor” given the need and because Erlanger is already the defacto provider of behavioral health services in this community. “This new hospital will greatly improve access to critically-needed mental health services, and enable Erlanger to improve the health of those in need throughout this region,” Spiegel said. 
Construction of the new hospital is expected to start in May.

PREVIOUS STORY: Erlanger’s request for approval to build a $25 million, 88-bed behavioral health center in Chattanooga was unanimously approved Wednesday.

The hearing before the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency in Nashville gave the green light for the project to move forward.

The state agency must grant approval before any major new health facility can be built in Tennessee.

Erlanger officials made the case for the new facility, citing the critical need for a short-term care facility serving vulnerable patients suffering from behavioral health problems, according to a news release.

Some of those testifying on behalf of Erlanger included Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes and Wanda Mays, Manager of Hamilton County’s Crisis Intervention Team. 
Joe Winick, the senior vice-president for planning, analytics and business development at Erlanger told the nine agency panelists that those Erlanger would be serving “are your next door neighbors.”

“They could be someone who is elderly, depressed or suffering from post-partem depression, schizophrenic, bipolar, or could be a young child taken to the emergency room because he or she has attempted suicide,” he added.  “The list is long, and it is sad to see these people do not have access to timely and critical health care.”

Officials with Parkridge, which operates the Parkridge Valley mental health facilities that serves adults and juveniles, and CADAS opposed Erlanger’s request for approval, arguing there are plenty of beds available to serve the mentally ill in Chattanooga.

Erlanger’s behavioral health facility, which will be located at Holtzclaw Avenue and Citico Avenue, will have 24 beds for geriatric patients, 24 for adults, 18 for children and adolescents and 22 for adult substance abuse patients.   

The two-story, 69,000 square foot hospital is expected to employ 100 staffers.   

Erlanger is working with UTCOMC to start a psychiatric residency program to train medical students, Winick told the panel.   
A point made during Erlanger's presentation was that during one twelve-month period, more than 11,500 Erlanger patients had a behavioral health condition that required treatment, and of those patients, 6,468 were admitted through our emergency room.
Once the panel voted unanimously to approve the facility, Erlanger President and CEO Kevin Spiegel said, “This is a major victory for the thousands of underserved and unserved people in our community who are in desperate need of behavioral health services – from veterans to the elderly, to adults and adolescents and those with substance abuse problems."