Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
Even before mental health experts began highlighting increases in the number of people struggling with mental health issues because of the pandemic, leadership with Bronson Healthcare was seeing the need to expand these services.
That recognition happened well over two years ago and has resulted in a new $35 million in-patient behavioral health facility to be located in Battle Creek, says Kirk Richardson, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Bronson Battle Creek.
Bronson Healthcare, which includes several member organizations including Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, and Acadia Healthcare Company, based in Franklin, Tenn., have formed a joint venture to build a 96-bed inpatient behavioral health facility in Battle Creek. Together, they will develop, construct and operate the new state-of-the-art, single-story facility. Acadia will cover the total construction cost for the new building.
“I would say we knew we had this sense of urgency when we started planning two years ago because of the need for mental health services and in-patient treatment issues, which is what hospitals and emergency rooms have been dealing with for a number of years,” Richardson says. “They want people to able to get treatment much faster and not sit for days waiting.”
Kirk Richardson, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Bronson Battle Creek.
Early in the pandemic, there were concerns that suicide rates would increase. So far, data from the CDC
suggest that overall suicide death rates have remained steady or have even fallen during the pandemic, according to an article on the National Institute of mental Health website
“Yet, there is also cause for concern in the emerging data,” the article says. “There is clear evidence that the pandemic has not affected all Americans equally. As is often the case, unfortunately, the most vulnerable among us are also feeling the mental health effects most intensely. Job loss, housing instability, food insecurity, and other risk factors for poor outcomes have disproportionately hit minority communities
. And while overall suicide rates may have remained steady, data from states such as Maryland
suggest that, early in the pandemic, the number of African Americans dying by suicide increased.”
The NIMH article goes on to say that, “Emerging data also indicate that people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses have also been hard hit by the pandemic. Individuals with schizophrenia, for instance, are nearly 10 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and are nearly three times more likely to die from it if they do fall ill, compared with individuals who do not have a mental illness. Finally, deaths due to opioid overdose rose substantially in the context of the pandemic. These data remind us that we need to work hard to address long-standing disparities and ensure access to life-saving medical and psychiatric care is available for all Americans.”
Indeed, the pandemic has raised awareness of mental health symptoms and service needs. Crisis intervention services such as SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990)
and the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
reported substantial increases in volume early in the pandemic, reflecting anxiety and distress brought on by COVID-19’s many uncertainties. And although data indicate the volume of mental health and suicide risk visits to emergency departments initially dropped when states issued stay-at-home orders, these visits increased again after stay-at-home restrictions were lifted.”
The new 69,000-square-foot, single-story building will address the increased need for inpatient services. It will occupy 10 acres of a 40-acre green space owned by Bronson at Glenn Cross Road and M-66. Construction is expected to begin between September and December on the new facility which replaces the healthcare provider's current in-patient behavioral health location in the Fieldstone Center at 165 Washington Ave.
“We were looking at the community and the current facility that we have so we can meet the needs of the community and surrounding areas,” Richardson says. “It would have cost us more to refurbish the Fieldstone Building and at the end of the day, we still would have had an old building and you’re dealing with utility systems and all of the other things you can’t see behind those walls.”
Jeannie Goodrich, Chief Executive Officer of Summit Pointe
in Battle Creek, which offers mental health services, including intensive outpatient treatment, says the new facility will offer opportunities for an expanded relationship with Bronson. She says this includes an expansion of available beds and resources for inpatient care.
“Summit Pointe already has a relationship and contract with Fieldstone so they can accept anybody who would need inpatient care,” Goodrich says. “An expansion of this many beds is a wonderful asset. It’s not just good for Calhoun County, but also for southwest Michigan. It’s a wonderful piece to have in our community. I’m glad they chose to have it in our backyard.”
The Fieldstone Building has been part of the Bronson Healthcare system since 2011 and is a 39-bed inpatient facility. Bronson Battle Creek has begun the state-required Certificate of Need (CON) application process to expand its license for inpatient behavioral health beds from the 39 it currently has at the Fieldstone Center to 83. Upon approval, Bronson Battle Creek plans to relocate all 83 behavioral health beds to a new facility that would be developed through the joint venture.
Acadia Healthcare is the nation’s largest stand-alone behavioral healthcare company. It operates a network of 228 behavioral healthcare facilities with approximately 10,000 beds in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Acadia brings to the joint venture a commitment to patient-and family-centered care, strong clinical outcomes, and a proven track record of collaborating with health systems across the country.
“They have a strong record of working with health systems,” Richardson says. “They have a staff of more than 20,000 and work with 70,000 patients on a daily basis. They will be managing and operating the new facility.”
Through the joint venture, Acadia and Bronson intend to develop innovative care delivery models that better integrate services for physical and mental health. Acadia, like Bronson, is committed to being a strong community partner, collaborating with many organizations, hospitals, and first responders across the region.
The Fieldstone Center will remain in use for behavioral health services until the new facility opens in 2022. After that, the building will continue to be used by Bronson Battle Creek for other purposes.
The hospital will transition inpatient behavioral health services from its Fieldstone Center building to the new hospital when it opens in early 2023.
The Fieldstone Center employs 50 and the new facility is expected to have a staff of 200 employees, all of whom will be hired through Acadia.
The new facility will offer a full continuum of inpatient behavioral health care for adult patients including comprehensive treatment for those who struggle with acute symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a press release issued by Bronson.
Richardson says the facility will serve adult and geriatric populations and also will have bed space for adults with developmental disabilities.
“At this time, it’s only for adults. There is potential in the future to look at pediatrics and adolescents,” he says.
Currently, the Bronson Healthcare system is licensed for 39 adult psychiatric beds at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital and 10 geropsychiatric beds at Bronson LakeView Hospital in Paw Paw. According to Bronson’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessments in Calhoun, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties, as well as state data, there is inadequate access to behavioral health services across the region due to a shortage of providers and inpatient beds.
“We have referrals,” Richardson says, “from all across the state and even into Indiana, which is a hardship for families because they have to go hundreds of miles away to a facility that provides treatment.”