Part blessing, part thank-you and part open house, a ceremony to mark the completion of construction on Saint Thomas Hickman Hospital’s new Behavioral Health Services clinic drew a proud crowd of supporters to the site last Wednesday morning.
The $1.25-million facility—it opens on July 17, said manager Jennifer Harris—offers care, treatment and support for persons with behavioral and mental health issues. The need has been established through community assessments by the hospital, and a groundswell of support that produced donations of $160,000 during a fundraiser in the fall of 2015.
“I know of no other examples in the state of communities that have come together like this,” said Jack Keller, the local hospital’s chief executive.
Parent Saint Thomas Health, which is owned by Ascension, provided the bulk of the necessary funding. They form a financial umbrella over the Centerville hospital, nursing home, home health, clinic and now behavioral health complex—protecting its ability to operate in the face of diminished government support and charity care that has been as high as $3 million in a single year, with no one turned away.
Keller said the local financial support is, to him, a model of support for local healthcare if it is to survive.
“More and more of these endeavors will be required,” he said, in the face of dwindling federal reimbursement that, in Tennessee, still leaves 250,000 persons without insurance coverage. Discussions about healthcare in Congress, Keller said, “are just not getting us there.”
A new local funding campaign is planned this fall, to raise funds for major medical equipment, again with Saint Thomas health expensed to supplement the community[‘s contributions by supplying most of the needed dollars.
The newest Saint Thomas Hickman facility replaces and expands what had been the Senior Care mobile unit located behind the hospital. An addition to the doctor’s clinic, the Behavioral Health Services clinic includes five offices, a conference room and the Hickman charitable Pharmacy, which provides free medications to those in need.
Harris said it is not yet up and running.
The clinic itself brings together services that already are being provided in some form, including:
The Senior Care program, offering support and help on an outpatient basis, including psychiatric care. Valerie Votaw, a licensed clinical social worker, and Harris oversee it.
The Alzheimer’s Support Group, which meets monthly and is open to patients and those who care for them.
Therapy and counseling behavioral and mental health issues. Votaw serves this program which began in September and sees patients from ages 5 and up. No referral is needed, Harris said.
Psychiatric medication management, which also began last year with Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Noell Dupont, who visits one day a week and may prescribe, though under supervision of a psychiatrist.
New, Harris said, will be the Hickman Charitable Pharmacy; it must meet various government approvals before it can open; there is not a timetable, she said. Free medication comes from entities who participate by donating medicine that is nearing its expiration date and otherwise would be discarded.
The ceremony included holy-water blessings of the building by Saint Thomas Health Spiritual Care Director Ward Carver; prayers for the clinic, its staff and the community.
In her remarks, Harris traced the growing need for mental and behavioral health services back before 2000, to the old Family counseling and Mental Health Center, then the establishment of Senior Care and the growing number of mental-health cases being seen in emergency rooms.
A spike in suicides, in 2003, gained local awareness, plus help from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network in establishing a local task force; then training for teachers and community, plus depression screenings and an expansion of services for National Guardsmen who returned from the Gulf War and jail inmates.
“We could no longer hope it would go away,” said Harris, who has chaired both the local and statewide suicide awareness groups.
In addition, Centerstone—a regional provider—has seen its mobile crisis unit evolve into the same service provided by telemedicine, in the hospital, providing quicker response. Three Rivers Community in Lyles has been established, as has Reflections Counseling and other providers—and the suicide task force now deals with behavioral issues, as well.
“It’s been a very long journey,” said Kevin Campbell, the hospital nursing home administrator and the hospital’s director of support services.
Source: Hickman County Times