Mental health hospital adding 25 jobs, 40 beds with $5.1 million expansion

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 361 views 

A Fort Smith mental health hospital is investing $5.1 million in an expansion that will add a total of 25 jobs.

According to Valley Behavioral Health System CEO Anthony Walters, the expansion to the hospital's location at 10301 Mayo Drive will take the facility from a 75 bed inpatient facility to 114 beds.

"We essentially have a project in motion right now where we're going to be adding two new units to the facility and it'll be two 20 bed units at the existing facility," he said, adding that the addition will open the facility to more patients in the future.

"We see days here in the valley where there are no beds and that's a major issue, particularly if someone has a family member that's receiving treatment, whether it's a child or an adult or a geriatric, etc. We run generally over 90% occupancy and so again what that means at times is there's simply no beds."

As a result, Walters said patients often have to drive to Fayetteville, Little Rock or elsewhere to receive treatment for mental health issues that Valley Behavioral typically would be able to treat if occupancy levels were not prohibitive.

The new units will expand existing healthcare offerings at the facility, he said, while Director of Business Development Beverly Wilborn said other services may be added in the future due to the new space available upon completion of the expansion.

"I've met with several members of the community to get their input on what they see our community might need in those specialty programs. I met with several different people at several different levels and several different organizations," she said, adding that while Valley specializes in children and adolescent treatment, additional adult and elderly service lines may be part of the expanded services in coming years.

Because of the the planned growth of the service offerings at Valley Behavioral, Walters said the number of jobs added was likely to be higher than the 25 planned. The jobs, he said, would also consist of more than just therapists and nurses.

"There will be a number of new positions created, which ultimately means jobs. It'll be direct care staff, but also administrative staff that will be added to compliment (healthcare providers)," Walters said.

Walters noted that while many people may not be familiar with Valley, its history in the community is long, dating back to the mid-1980s when it was founded as a part of the Sisters of Mercy Health System before undergoing "several changes of ownership."

Most recently, the facility operated under the Vista Health brand. And while the hospital may not be as visible in the community as Mercy or Sparks, he said the services provided are just as important for the community.

"One of the things that I think we're very passionate about here at Valley is that for an individual who has a behavioral health crisis, something that is going on where they need treatment, it is extremely important for individuals to have access to care and quality care," Walters said. "We think a lot about someone needing care or seeking care if they're having a heart attack or things like that. Or some other type of medical procedure. And that certainly is an important realm of healthcare. But behavioral health is, as well. We see often times when individuals are able to access care, that good things happen in terms of suicide risk being minimized and individuals being able to stabilize."

Walters said preventing suicide and other risks to individuals is an important part of the work being done at Valley, adding that working in partnership with other healthcare service providers, schools and other organizations allows Valley to meet its mission.

"Right here in our backyard daily, we have folks in our backyard who need help and there should be no shame or stigma in coming in to seek help. And we want to have the capacity to serve because I do believe if the access is there, we can seek to work in partnership with others and I believe we can save lives doing that."

Construction on the expansion at Valley Behavioral is expected to be completed sometime late in the fourth quarter of 2015.