GHS withdraws application for new psychiatric hospital

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Greenville Health System has withdrawn its application for a new psychiatric hospital.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control had denied in December the hospital’s certificate of need application for a new 120-bed facility on the site of the old Blood Connection building. The facility was to replace Marshal I. Pickens Hospital and be built in partnership with Acadia Healthcare, a national health care giant that has 579 facilities in 39 states, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. Acadia would manage the day-to-day operations of the hospital, while GHS would provide clinical oversight.

The hospital had asked the agency to reconsider but decided to withdraw the application.

“While we withdrew this application, we are by no means giving up on this important issue. Our patients, our community, and our team members who deliver outstanding care deserve a modern facility with expanded services,” said Dr. Karen Lommel, behavioral health chief medical officer for GHS.

The hospital’s certificate of need application drew opposition from those concerned the move could further strain a state system that already struggles to provide timely access to inpatient psychiatric care to some adults.

Because the new facility would be a freestanding hospital, it would be unable to bill Medicaid for any care provided to eligible adult patients between the ages of 22 and 64. Currently, Marshall Pickens may bill Medicaid for treatment of eligible adults because it is part of the Greenville Health System. GHS had said the new hospital would provide inpatient and outpatient services to adult Medicaid patients even though it won’t receive reimbursement for those services.

State mental health hospitals have had significant decreases in the number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds over the past 18 years, although the number of beds has been stable for several years, Mark W. Binkley, deputy director of the division of administrative services at the state Department of Mental Health, wrote in a letter to Louis Eubank, director of DHEC’s certificate of need program, in opposition of the original application. At the same time, the state’s population has continued to increase, making timely access to adult inpatient psychiatric care a “significant problem” in some areas of the state, he said. Some state lawmakers from Greenville County voiced similar concerns.

In addition, Springbrook Behavioral Health and the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health, psychiatric hospitals in Greenville County, said the new hospital would unnecessarily duplicate their services because they both rely on Marshall Pickens’ ability to accept adult Medicaid patients that they cannot.

DHEC denied the application because it determined that medically underserved groups could lose access to psychiatric care and that other providers in the area could be adversely impacted by the new hospital.

Lommel said GHS “remains committed to finding a solution to meet the mental health needs of our community.”

“We are formulating a plan we hope will receive CON approval and invite those with questions or concerns to engage with us to address the underserved mental-health needs in our community,” she said.

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