LINVILLE – A ribbon cutting was held at the grounds of the Cannon Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, Nov. 9, for the opening of the Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital outpatient clinic and the Dorothea Dix Behavioral Health Unit, with the official grand opening of the new hospital unit taking place on Nov. 15.

The hospital will open with room for 10 individuals and will slowly increase its capacity throughout the end of the year. By Dec. 27 it will be available for full capacity of 27 patients, however the unit is licensed for a potential 37 patients in the next year.

Representatives of Cannon Memorial Hospital, which is a component of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, renovated one of its older medical units in order to increase the size of the behavioral health unit from 10 to 27 beds.

The hospital received a grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for the conversion project which came out of the allotment of funding from the sale of the property that used to be the Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital in Raleigh.

ARBHH offers a highly structured and comprehensive mental health approach into the High Country where mental health service needs have risen exponentially in recent times. The hospital will be the recipient of both voluntary and involuntary patients, which is in the same physical structure as Cannon Memorial, yet with a different entrance.

The behavioral hospital aims at performing progressive wellness management and recovery in order to get patients back into the community.

“You shouldn’t have to compromise where you live for access to health care,” ARHS Director of Behavioral Health Stephanie Greer said of the need for mental healthcare in Avery County, citing the new facility as “a place of hope and healing that will last for decades.”

The state-of-the-art facility features a diverse array of impactful services, therapy, counseling and safety systems.

“The design (of the building) was made to mitigate risks. A lot of forethought went into safety,” program manager Matt Gaunt said of the architectural layout.

Equipped with an expansive monitoring system, emergency services and crisis detection and protocol, ARBHH melds safety with pleasant interactions as a component of the inclusive patient support programs. Twelve-hour staff shifts, 24-hour law enforcement accessibility and countless protection protocols also aid the units’ assurance features. The facility prioritizes these features, as Greer expressed ARBHH has “a focus on safety and quality.”

The ribbon cutting included guided tours throughout the grounds of the new wing and copious informational responses and literature. Along with the individual rooms, a dining area, activity space the facility maintains for quiet rooms, and safe rooms with therapy areas for both single and group therapy were reviewed. The unit contains stations for nurses, medication, psychiatrists, therapists and even a courtroom with availability to confer with attorney and be seen by a judge via video conference if needed or if involuntarily committed.

Mental health patients have traditionally gone to standard emergency rooms when faced with adversity or to receive treatment where mental health specialists are not always readily available. Patients would then be sent elsewhere, generally not in Avery County, to receive proper help. ARBHH wishes to mitigate this issue with the new facility, as patients will be able to be accommodated at the door and avoid treatment delays. Patients will receive a treatment plan within a very short period of time.

“The initial treatment plan will last for five days, then revisited,” Gaunt said of the plan.

The essential goal of treatment plan is to foster a safe discharge for patients. Staff also provide an exceptionally structured environment and schedule in order to minimize difficulties and increase efficiency for the patients.

The new hospital not only brings an effective mental health facility to Avery County, but it also provides large-scale development for the area and substantial workforce hiring. Altogether, the facility will have considerable full-time employment to include RNs, behavioral therapists, behavioral techs, doctoral positions and other mental health careers.

In attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony were healthcare workers, law enforcement, EMS, education professionals, representatives of town and county governments, and area chamber of commerce members.

“The audience here is a representation of the commitment of our community,” Greer said of the attendees.

Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital, opening its doors Nov. 15, provides the community a committed and competent mental health clinic to serve patients in an area not previously specialized with such proximity.

“The patients we are treating are the people you love,” expressed Greer. “We have the opportunity to affect generations, (and) a commitment to service and community.”

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