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Behavioral health hospital coming to area

There is a growing need for healthcare providers to help those with mental or behavioral issues.

Nearly one in 10 children between the ages of 12 and 17 in Missouri experienced a depressive episode in 2017.

Help is hard to come by. The average wait time to see a psychiatrist is 10 to 30 days for adults in Missouri and up to six months for children and teens.

Most of those who need help for their behavioral issues go to the emergency room at the their local hospital. In the state of Missouri from 2008 through 2017, emergency department utilization for mental health-related disorders increased 212 percent for Medicaid managed care and 30 percent for Medicaid fee-for-service. The increase for all other payers combined was 42 percent.

To address this problem, a new, free-standing 102-bed behavioral health hospital is coming to our area. The $33 million state-of-the-art facility will span more than 68,000 square-feet, and will significantly improve access to care for the full continuum of behavioral health programs and services.

The hospital is the result of a partnership between SoutheastHEALTH and Universal Health Services, Inc. of King of Prussia, PA. Officials signed an agreement Thursday at Southeast Hospital.

The new behavioral hospital will be built on Southeast’s West Campus, adjacent to I-55 off exit 95. Construction will begin this summer and the facility is expected to open in the fall of 2020.

The visionary behind this project is Ken Bateman, president and CEO of SoutheastHEALTH. He told The Cash-Book Journal that patients with behavioral problems and those with medical problems all currently enter the hospital through the emergency room. This creates the potential for an unsafe environment.

“With the limited access to behavioral health providers in Southeast’s service area, patients in crisis commonly come to the emergency departments of acute-care hospitals, which challenges the care team’s ability to provide appropriate treatment and stabilization, post-discharge placement, and patient transportation,” said Bateman.

When the emergency room at SoutheastHEALTH’s Dexter facility was remodeled, an Adult Voluntary Behavioral Unit was constructed on the second floor. It has 15 private patient rooms with full bathrooms along with areas for activities, group therapy, dining and visiting. The Dexter facility replaced the behavioral health unit in Southeast Hospital in Cape Girardeau.

Bateman said at the time, “With its dedicated holding area for behavioral health patients within Emergency Services, there is the benefit of a safer environment for patients and staff.”

The solution for the Dexter facility worked well there, but the question remained of what to do in Cape Girardeau.

It was decided that the Cape Girardeau area needed a new, separate facility dedicated to behavioral health issues. A partner with expertise in that area was sought.

SoutheastHEALTH selected UHS, one of the nation’s most respected hospital management companies, as its partner.

UHS not only has the behavioral health expertise that is needed, but it shares SoutheastHEALTH’s vision of long-standing commitment to patient and family-centered care and strong clinical outcomes.

UHS also has a proven track record of partnering with academic, regional networks and community-based entities.

UHS will be the majority owner and will oversee the day-to-day operations and management of the new behavioral health facility.

“Southeast and UHS intend to provide specialized care for patients, along with investing in medical residencies, clinical training and the latest in telehealth technology to bridge the gap in access,” Bateman said.

“UHS is pleased to collaborate with Southeast-HEALTH, a premier organization, to provide critically needed behavioral health services in greater southeast Missouri,” said UHS National Director of Behavioral Health Integration Shelah Adams. “We recognize SoutheastHEALTH shares our mission and vision to provide patients and their loved ones with compassionate, high-quality behavioral health care, services and support.”

Plans to establish the new facility were approved unanimously by a state board in May 2018.

“Aside from fulfilling the unmet need for behavioral health, the economic impact for this community is impressive. When fully operational, the hospital will employ over 180 clinicians, mental health technicians and support staff,” Bateman added.

The new facility will feature a full continuum of inpatient services across the entire patient population, including a geriatric unit, two adult care units, and a child and adolescent unit.

Specialty programs for co-occurring behavioral health and substance use issues will be offered to meet the unique needs of this patient population.

In addition, the facility will offer robust outpatient programs to address the most prevalent mental health concerns, including child, adolescent and family counseling; and treatment for depression, anxiety disorders and other common mental health issues.

“UHS brings national resources with a local focus, currently operating two other facilities in Missouri, having proudly served the community for well over 100 years,” said UHS Group Director of the Behavioral Health Division Ron Escarda. “Our long-standing commitment to quality care and expertise in the field of behavioral health will enable us, in partnership with Southeast, to improve access to services and enhance the level of care provided to some of this region’s most vulnerable patients.

“We believe recovery is possible for every patient with a psychological diagnosis. Recovery is possible for every person in our care.”

“Okay, it’s official,” Bateman said once the document was signed by representatives of SoutheastHEALTH and United Health Services.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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