Appeal denied: SUN’s psychiatric center plans on course

GEORGETOWN – A New Jersey-based behavioral health company is pressing forward with plans for a psychiatric hospital in Georgetown, following a state health board’s rejection of an appeal filed by the parent company of two upstate centers.

The Delaware Health Resources Board on Dec. 17 addressed an administrative appeal filed by Universal Health Services and unanimously upheld its Oct. 22 approval of SUN (Solving Unmet Needs) Behavioral Health’s plans for a 90-bed facility.

28 SUN behavorial project layout

Design scheme for SUN Behavioral Health’s 90-bed psychiatric hospital in Georgetown.

“We expected it would be upheld so we had continued to press forward, going into that. So there is really no change at this point on our timeline,” said SUN CEO-president Steve Page.

Universal Health Services had filed the appeal on behalf of Dover Behavioral Health system and Rockford Center, a behavioral healthcare provider in Newark

Jean-Charles Constant, CEO of Dover Behavioral Health System, and Rockford Center CEO John McKenna spoke out against the scale and ratio of unmet needs at a Sept. 29 public hearing at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown.

“What we are opposed to is the scale of this project, because we firmly believe that it will over-bed the state,” said Mr. McKenna, adding their belief is “very heavily weighted in in-patient beds and not what the community really needs … more robust community based services.”

“I wholeheartedly agree Sussex County has a lack of mental health (services). A 90-bed facility I don’t think is warranted,” said Mr. Constant at the Sept. 29 public hearing held in Georgetown.

“We are familiar with UHS – which is the parent company of Dover and Rockford – and that is the company that did the appeal,” said Mr. Page. “We see them all over the country. This is what they do. They’ll appeal it until the last appeal is done. They want to protect their facilities as much as they can, even that just means a delay to us. That is what we have seen them do elsewhere.”

Mr. Page said it is his understanding there is another appeal process.

“As I understand it the last appeal here is they can appeal it to Superior Court. There is one more option for them,” said Mr. Page, who is scheduled to the spotlight speaker at the Tuesday, Jan. 5 meeting of the Sussex County Action Prevention Coalition. “We’re hopeful they will let it go. There has been overwhelming support for the facility and so I think even that appeal would simply be a delay for us, and I don’t think they would prevail. They are the only group that doesn’t want to see it and that’s for competitive reasons.”

SUN’s facility will be located across from Delaware Technical Community College at the intersection of U.S. 113 and Rt. 404.

Plans include 24/7 assessment service, short-term inpatient hospitalization and fairly intense outpatient services, Mr. Page said.

SUN plans to break ground in the summer of 2016, and open the summer of 2017.

Between now and the groundbreaking, SUN will get the architectural plans and engineering plans into construction documents, obtain permits and hire a contractor, “which takes about six months,” Mr. Page said.

When fully operational, the facility will have 160 fulltime equivalent employees, Mr. Page said.

SPOTLIGHT SPEAKER: SCAPC spokesman Jim Martin said Mr. Page will provide information and updates on SUN’s plans for the psychiatric center at 10 a.m. on Jan. 5.  SCAPC meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Stein Highway Church of God’s Lighted Pathway Family Life Center in Seaford.

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

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