Sun’s proposed psychiatric hospital in Georgetown lands board approval

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GEORGETOWN – Sometime in summer of 2017, Sussex County may have its own psychiatric facility providing in-patient and outpatient behavioral/mental health services.

Less than a month after a public hearing that drew heavy local support as well as opposition from upstate providers, the Delaware Health Resources Board on Oct. 22 approved Sun Behavioral Health’s proposal for a 90-bed psychiatric hospital in Georgetown.

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Sun Behavioral Health president/CEO Steve Page speaks at the Sept. 29 public hearing before the Delaware Health Resources Board.

Sun, based in Red Bank, N.J., plans to build the facility in the College Park business complex across from Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus.

“We would expect by summer of 2016 to start and have a groundbreaking, and summer 2017 to open,” said Steve Page, Sun Behavioral Health president/CEO.

As proposed, the 70,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital will provide intensive in-patient care and structured out-patient care, as well as a variety of programs and services, including detox and substance abuse.

Mr. Page was not shocked by the decision of the DHRB, whose mission includes regulating the number of beds in hospitals and nursing homes.

“I’m not surprised in the sense that it was clear this is in the best interest of Delawareans. I’m pleased that in my view the system worked and there will be services that are much needed. But you just never know at the beginning of an application process,” said Mr. Page. “I was really pleased with the amount of support from many levels – legislators, other providers, patients and others. That was really encouraging. It would have been a sad day if it didn’t come through.”

Discussions with leaders of health-care providers in Southern Delaware – Beebe, Nanticoke and Bayhealth – led to Sun’s proposal.

Testimony at the Sept. 29 public hearing before the DHRB emphasized the tremendous lack of psychiatric/mental health facilities and providers in Sussex County.

Sun’s proposal also met stiff opposition from several upstate providers who suggested more community-based services are needed, not a 90-bed inpatient facility.

“They were upset about the number of patient beds,” said Mr. Page. “But if you look at the number of in-patients in our proposal, which is 90, and you look at that on a per capita basis – there are a couple hundred thousand people in Sussex – if you compare that per capita to Kent and New Castle County, the 90 is right in line with the number of beds that those counties have per capita.”

The psychiatric hospital carries an approximate $20 million price tag. Plans at opening are for about 60 full-time equivalent employees, and 160 when fully operational.

“It is open 24/7, 365 (days a year),” said Mr. Page. “That will cover all of the shifts.”

The DHRB’s approval included four conditions that Sun will:

  • not admit patients that do not meet in-patient criteria;
  • provide an appropriate discharge plan for patients that meet in-patient criteria;
  • have charity care, regardless of patient’s ability to pay;
  • utilize electronic medical records, linked to the state’s system.

“To us they were acceptable because they are in line with how would operate in any case,” said Mr. Page.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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