Editor,

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a certificate-of-need hearing for a new 66-bed behavioral hospital planned for Huntersville by Carolinas HealthCare System. I shared with officials from the Division of Health Service Regulation the need for such a facility and the Lake Norman Chamber’s strong support, as we continue to see a dramatic increase in our population.

Del Murphy Jr., vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Management Company,  shared with our chamber leaders the overwhelming need for additional beds for behavioral health services. Murphy pointed out that on an average day, 20 to 30 patients are held in the emergency departments and general acute care beds at CMC hospitals in Charlotte, awaiting psychiatric bed placement. CMC-Randolph inpatient occupancy exceeds 100 percent. There are simply not enough beds to serve our growing population.

I pointed out that the community in which I live, Huntersville, was roughly 3,000 people in 1990. Today, 46,773 people live in our town.

I also shared a personal story that my Grandfather Russell lived the remaining six years of his life with Alzheimer’s, and my Grandmother Feemster battled dementia before we lost her this past February. I loved my grandparents dearly and spent many weekends with them in the twilight of their lives. I sat by their bed looking in their empty eyes that stared back at me, wondering who was that stranger holding their hand. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of those final years we had together. But just as they took care of me as a child, my family took turns staying with them.

However, many families in North Mecklenburg and South Iredell simply do not have that resource.

Many families have husbands, wives, sons or daughters who battle mental illness who have yet to be treated or, in some cases, diagnosed. Their extended family resources may be limited and their options few. That’s compounded when they have to travel to outlying counties for service when they live here in our lake region.

We are fortunate to have outstanding health-care providers in the Lake Norman region, but no one can dispute that we are sorely lacking in psychiatric care.

As business and community leaders, we cannot settle for anything less but the very best when it comes to the health of our citizens and employees. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce supports this proposed facility.

– W.E. “Bill” Russell, President, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce