By Tim Gardner
Charles H. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville has broken ground for new facility additions to its inpatient behavioral health unit. The project, which has been in the works for a long time, will expand the facility’s ability to meet behavioral health needs.
The project will include two new facilities in which 27 behavioral health beds will be added to the existing 10 beds at the Critical Access Hospital. In 2018, the facility could only admit approximately 500 patients and had to turn away around 4,500, according to Hospital President Carmen Lacey.
She noted that the need for behavioral beds runs in contrast to the hospital’s declining medical beds use.
Lacey, who served in various capacities at old Garrett (later renamed Sloop) Hospital in Crossnore, beginning in the 1970s, before relocating to Cannon Memorial when it merged with Sloop in 1999 and then becoming its President in 2012, said Cannon only averages about six new patients admitted each day. But she said the existing behavioral health care beds almost always remain full.
The expansion will also add eight new medical beds and convert old medical beds to be used in behavioral health units.
Lacey added that the facility will be the only behavioral health unit in a 40-mile radius and its the expansion will allow serving 1,500 patients, a 300-percent increase past the 500 it usually admits annually at the current facility.
She also declared that the expansion should create around 58 jobs, ranging from lower-level technicians, nurses, dietary and social workers, doctors to other hospital-related jobs.
“I’m proud that we will continue to offer medical beds for admissions, surgeries, diagnostics and rehabilitations as well as a 24-hour; seven days a week emergency department and I want to stress that,” Lacey stated.
Construction for the new facilities, which will be located on the existing Cannon Hospital premises, is expected to be finished in June of 2021.
The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, of which Charles H. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital operates under, received $6.5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the project.
A Critical Access Hospitals regulation previously prevented a larger behavioral health facility and a regular medical facility from being housed in the same building. However, Cannon Hospital received a waiver to the rule–the first one ever granted– by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services.
The project also got $2.4 million from the Morrison Charitable Trust and $2.1 million from The Blair Foundation.
ARHS Director Stephanie Greer commented about the new facility at Cannon Hospital: “Because we’re expanding our behavioral health capacity, we’re better equipped to meet the needs or our community. There are people working diligently to access care and can’t and they often have long waits in emergency departments for access to inpatient units. This expansion of the inpatient behavioral health beds will give the hospital a better opportunity to be incredibly responsive to those in need.”