Behavioral health facility finds support in Davidson
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON — Residents here got a first-hand look Thursday, July 12, at the 66-bed behavioral health facility planned by Carolinas HealthCare Systems – and many there were in support of the project.
The $36 million project, originally proposed for a site in Huntersville, will be a 68,000 square-foot in-patient facility as well as a 10,000 square-foot outpatient center.
The Huntersville Town Board voted down the project earlier in the spring.
The Davidson East property is located off of N.C. 73, tucked away from the road. The location is at least 500 feet from most homes in the River Run and Summers Walk subdivisions.
CHS representatives anticipate the hospital will break ground in the fourth quarter of 2012 with completion in 2013.
“We’re hoping for a one-year turnaround because of the need,” CHS facilities manager Mary Beth Kuzmanovich said.
And that need was something CHS officials and behavioral health advocates stressed during the meeting.
Area doctor Jason Batley said suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. And out of 2,000 high school students, 50 students contemplate suicide.
“Outpatient services are lacking and we don’t have enough mental health providers because there aren’t enough facilities,” Batley said.
“No one should sit in the ER for three weeks,” he said.
He said patients coming into the ER for physical as well as psychiatric care are becoming far too common because of the lack of outside facilities.
“So when you’re taking your kid from the soccer field to the ER for a swollen knee and wait six hours, this is part of the reason,” Batley said.
Those attending the meeting said this was a gold star for Davidson and something the rest of the community should get behind.
Resident Maria Webster said she’s supportive of the behavioral center and that the need for it is tremendous.
“We lost three teens last year to suicide. If we’d had a facility, would it have been different? I don’t know, but the fact they didn’t have one close by is a travesty. So if nothing else, their deaths should be reason to do it and support it. I’m so proud of the town for stepping up. ... This will be a positive thing for Davidson.”
But not all residents were as supportive.
Davidson Due Process is a group that has formed since the announcement of the hospital coming to Davidson. The group argues the town did not take the necessary steps to give Davidson residents who will live near the facility enough time to review the proposal and appeal if opposed. The group has said it might pursue legal action to stop the construction of the facility.
“This isn’t a push back on CHS, we’re just trying to take back our town,” Due Process member John McCrory said. “This it the first time we’ve had a discussion on this.”
But Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice said that’s because the town rezoned the property to a flex campus planning area three years ago.
He explained the town went through a nine-month process, with public hearings and other meetings, to hammer out the logistics of the rezoning, which allows the town staff to approve a development site without design board approved.
Brice also said the town will see a $58 million positive impact during just the construction phase of the hospital, which is anticipated to bring 411 jobs to the area. And once it’s complete, there will be 155 permanent jobs.
“It will be a boost for the economy,” Brice said.
While the hospital is a nonprofit and therefore exempt from property taxes, Brice anticipates the location of the hospital will entice other medical offices to locate near the facility, which will contribute to the town’s property tax collection.
He said the hospital won’t significantly impact the town’s police, fire or EMS services, with no more than an increase of three calls per week, and that property values won’t be affected either.