Mental health hospital to open in Davidson

DAVIDSON, NC (WBTV) - A lot of mental health professionals say that a crisis has been brewing in this country. Fifty years ago, there were 500,000 in-patient beds available for the mentally ill.  Today, that number is down to 40,000.

Access to care has also declined considerably right here.

Since 1990, the population in Mecklenburg County has doubled.  But at the same time, access to local in-patient mental health care facilities has decreased by more than half.

In fact, it's been decades since a new mental health hospital has opened in this state.

But on Monday, that will change. That's when Carolinas Healthcare will open a facility in Davidson.

It looks more like a lodge than a psychiatric hospital, and it's supposed to.

"This building was designed to be an inviting, warm, empowering, aesthetically-pleasing, stress-reducing environment to really normalize the fact that an illness is an illness and one can recover," says Vice President and Facility Executive Dr. Tom Gettelman.

One reason mental health facilities have lost both interest and funding since the 60's is the idea that mental illness is incurable.  But Gettelman says that's not true, and that this facility is a state of the art tool to promote healing.

From warm wood floors to an abundance of natural light; private rooms to instant translation services to the gym facility; this place is unique.  And Medical Director Alisha Romeo says so is the staffing model. Each in-patient will work with the same team during his or her entire stay.

"It's hard enough to be sick," Romeo says. "And it's hard enough to entrust your care in the hands of strangers so this creates the opportunity to develop some trust."

At first, there was some modest resistance to development of the hospital in Davidson, but Gettelman says as people got more information, that dissipated.

"The stigma I talked about earlier with behavioral health and psychiatric illness – imagine how that can be positively impacted if the soul of the town embraces psychiatric care," Gettelman says. "It's an amazing thought. A wonderful thought."

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