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SUN Behavioral Health 197-bed hospital in Erlanger completed, will begin to accept new patients in May

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Two years to the day after ground was broken, the ribbon was cut to officially open SUN Behavioral Health hospital in Erlanger Monday.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare CEO Garren Colvin (holding scissors), joins SUN Behavioral Health officials and community stakeholders Monday in cutting the ribbon at the just-completed facility in Erlanger (photos by Mark Hansel).

The 197-bed hospital will transfer in a handful of adolescents from NorthKey Community Care today, but is not expected to begin receiving additional patients until late April or early May.

The 149,000 square-foot hospital, a partnership with SUN Behavioral Health and St. Elizabeth Healthcare, is expected to employ about 400 people.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare CEO Garren Colvin said it is rewarding to see a vision that will contribute greatly to a solution for the region’s behavioral health needs become a reality.

“With SUN we will be able to better address the need for enhanced access to inpatient critical health and care for the pensive resources for children, adolescents and adults in Northern Kentucky,” Colvin said. “Through this work together, we will be able to expand and improve an integrated, inpatient behavioral health care service, available in this region, and fulfill the needs of the most vulnerable citizens. Mental illness and substance abuse disorders continue to tear apart and have adverse effects on our families, neighborhoods, communities and the broader society.”

SUN Behavioral Health partners with communities to solve their unmet needs for behavioral health services.

Steve Page, founder of SUN Behavioral Health, said the progress made at the facility to this point encourages him about what the future holds.

“When we did the groundbreaking two years ago, I really left thinking this should be a model for the country,” Page said. “I think there is a tremendous opportunity for this hospital to be one of the best in the country and I truly believe that.”

An overflow crowd attended Monday’s official opening of the SUN Behavioral Health hospital in Erlanger.

The facility is located on Dolwick Drive, adjacent to Interstate 75, in an area that ha little residential development.

Behavioral health hospitals are not always welcomed with open arms, but Erlanger Mayor Tyson Hermes said the facility will be a strong addition to the region.

“It’s more of a destination type of place,” Hermes said. “It’s not something that needs easy access necessarily and it’s not immediately adjacent to homes, schools and places where people might be tentative about allowing it. We think SUN picked a great spot, we look forward to having them as part of the community and we know that it’s a service that’s desperately needed.

SUN Behavioral Health works closely with medical and surgical hospitals, physicians and behavioral health care providers as well as local schools and community organizations to ensure that its hospitals provide patients and their families with a seamless continuum of care.

Page credited St. Elizabeth Healthcare leaders for their vision in recognizing how to help fill the behavioral health needs in the community.

“When we joined and became part of the process, it had one look and it’s really evolved and moved to what you see today and that’s really a credit to that group,” Page said. “That’s not simple and it takes a tremendous number of people to be flexible to move forward, and really with the same mindset of what is right for the community and what’s right for patients.”

SUN Behavioral Health also worked with NorthKey to purchase some of its beds for the facility.

“They too, had to be flexible as we moved through this process and we’ll all work together going forward,” Page said. “That’s an important partner and again, when they started, it looked a little different than it does today.”

State Rep. Kimberly Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said Northern Kentucky is really fortunate to have such dedicated community leaders that were committed to this project and she is proud of the results of those efforts.

“It’s critical that we address and are committed to solving these truly unmet needs in our community,” Moser said. “We are working hard locally – this is a big piece of what we are doing – it’s not the only thing we are doing.  Many of you are involved firsthand in solving this issue.”

Exterior photo of the new Sun Behavioral Health hospital on Dolwick Drive in Erlanger.

Moser is also the Northern Kentucky Director of Drug Control Policy and she said comprehensive behavioral health resources can help remove the stigma associated with drug use and mental illness, a barrier to treatment.

“The concept of stigma describes this powerful negative perception commonly associated with substance use disorders,” Moser said. “Stigma has the potential to negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, damage relationships with loved ones and prevent those suffering from mental health issues and mental health disorders from entering treatment.”

A goal of SUN Behavioral Health is to help remove that stigma and improve psychiatric services for communities by providing compassionate and respectful care to save lives and enhance the quality of life for patients and their families.

Page emphasized that Sun cannot accomplish that goal alone and emphasized that the hospital operation will continue to be a collaborative effort going forward.

“We’ve got associates coming over from St. Elizabeth (and) a group that we’ve been working with at Northkey for the past two or three years,” Page said. “They are all going to come together and work out together how to best provide these services and, of course, we’ve got some experience in doing that. This transition will be aided by our corporate team and I would put them up in front of anybody in terms of getting projects like this done.”

For more information about SUN Behavioral Health’s new Erlanger hospital, click here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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