CHS officials announced this past Wednesday that the new site for the 67,000-square-foot hospital is a tract along N.C. 73 — right on Davidson's border with Huntersville. That means the hospital, if its allotment of patients is approved by the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation (NCDHSR), will literally be across the street from Huntersville.
"We couldn't be more thrilled at the prospect of having a quality facility such as this one in the town of Davidson," said Davidson Mayor John Woods, in a not-so-veiled reference to the Huntersville Town Board, which voted 4-2 to reject the CHS proposal after residents of the Monteith Place community objected to having the hospital next door. "Our community already benefits from other CHS services, including physician practices. We know the kind of commitment CHS and its employees make to the community. We believe this new project will be a model for behavioral healthcare, not just for Davidson but for the entire region."
And it perhaps was no coincidence that when CHS wanted one of its physicians to comment on the need for the facility, it chose one from Huntersville.
"Our emergency rooms and inpatient medical beds are getting backed up with patients whose needs are better met in a mental health facility," said Dr. Thomas Batchelor, an internist in Huntersville. "Many of these patients wait days to weeks in the ER for an inpatient mental health bed to open. The trickle down effect is enormous and even affects my care of patients in the outpatient setting. This is a national problem but I have seen it first hand locally."
The new site is the subject of a lawsuit by its owner, CommunityOne, and the Town of Davidson, which rezoned the tract last year. The Davidson site does not require rezoning for the hospital, officials said this week.
The state of North Carolina began downsizing state psychiatric hospitals following the passage of the Mental Health Reform Act of 2001. To date, about half of the state-operated hospital beds have closed. Mecklenburg County is experiencing a serious shortage of available beds for behavioral health patients, which results in some patients being held for observation in hospital emergency departments or acute care beds while waiting for placement.