Millions of Americans experience mental illness each year and there aren’t nearly enough psychiatric beds or funds to combat the region’s growing mental health problem.
Beckett Springs Hospital, scheduled to open in July in West Chester, will help address that need, said David Polunas, chief executive officer.
The 48-bed, private $10 million facility will more than double the amount of psychiatric beds for adult care in Butler County and become the second privately owned mental health facility in Greater Cincinnati, joining the 48-bed Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason.
“When we looked at the Cincinnati market we saw a tremendous need for inpatient and outpatient mental health services,” Polunas said. “Over the last 20 years there has been a significant decrease in funding for mental health. As opposed to being over-bedded, we don’t have enough beds.”
As the economy crumbled, in 2008, the Ohio Department of Mental Health was forced to trim funding for public hospitals its mental service budget at publicly funded hospitals from $615 million in 2008 to $472 million in 2010.
As part of a $143 million budget cut, the state closed three of its nine hospitals. Now, there are six publicly funded mental health facilities in Ohio. Summit Behavioral Healthcare, 1101 Summit Road in Roselawn, with 291 beds, is the only one left in Southwest Ohio.
“There is a desire for it, but at the same time most states have to balance their budget, the federal government is looking at trying to balance the budget and, unfortunately, mental health and human services in general end up being an easy place to cut,” Polunas said.
Nationally, across all publicly funded state hospitals, state governments have collectively cut $4 billion from its mental health budget in the past four years. Furthermore, it has lost between 8 percent and 9 percent of its beds, according to the National Association of State and Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute.
With a need of mental health services, private hospitals like Beckett Springs and the Lindner Center of HOPE, which opened in 2008, are trying to serve an under-served population.
“It is really hard to be negative about having more opportunities for mental care in our community,” said John M. Hawkins, chief of psychiatry at the Lindner Center of HOPE. “Back in the mid-’90s our region went through a very significant decrease, approximately a 50 percent decrease, in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds.”
As of March 2012, in Butler, Warren, Clermont and Hamilton counties, there were a total of 465 beds for adult inpatient mental service care at private hospitals for a population of 2,244,869.
“Any professional in the mental health field will tell you that there are huge gaps in service,” said Liz Atwell, executive director of Mental Health America of Southwest Ohio. “The overarching issue for the last couple of decades that there is a significant need and not enough resources available.”
Beckett Springs will provide free mental health and addiction assessments inpatient treatment for psychiatric disorders and acute emotional conditions. Aftercare and weekly group therapy also will be offered.
It will employ 87 when it opens in July and projects a staff of 150 a year from now.