St. Elizabeth Begins Construction of $40M Hospital

St. Elizabeth Healthcare and SUN Behavioral Health will begin construction this afternoon on a $40 million hospital in Erlanger. The joint venture will focus on mental health and addiction services.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin will join St. Elizabeth CEO Garren Colvin, St. E board chairman Jim Votruba and SUN CEO Steve Page in a 2 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony at 820 Dolwick Drive.

Later today, Bevin will visit the main campus of Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky (CHNK) in Covington to discuss the needs of adolescent behavioral health care and addiction treatment.

I previously reported on CHNK’s plans to expand drug-treatment programs for kids. Heroin and opiate abuse have reached epidemic levels in Greater Cincinnati, which is prompting the rush to provide additional facilities, including one envisioned by the Center for Addiction Treatment on its campus in Cincinnati’s West End.

The new hospital in Erlanger will work with CHNK and other health care providers in the region, according to St. E’s Colvin.

“Mental illness and substance use disorders continue to have adverse effects on our families, neighborhoods, communities and the broader society,” Colvin said.

The 149,000-square-foot SUN Behavioral Health Hospital being built in conjunction with St. E, which will include 197 beds to treat children, adolescents and adults, will open in the second half of 2017. The construction manager is Danis Construction, which has an office in Sycamore Township. NK Architects of New Jersey is handling the design.

Page, the chief executive of New Jersey-based SUN, said the hospital will have an intimate feel from a patient’s perspective despite being so large.

“The hospital has been designed to allow patients to make full use of the premises, including a gym, internal courtyards and dining,” Page said.

An around-the-clock admissions center will enable patients who are medically stable to go directly to the new hospital and avoid a stop at an emergency department, Page said.

The hospital campus encompasses 13 acres off of Interstate 275 in Kenton County. The vacant land was purchased from Corporex, a Covington-based real estate investment company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the total project cost of $40 million includes the land.

SUN holds a 75 percent stake in the for-profit hospital venture, while Edgewood-based St. E has a 25 percent stake.

SUN, which stands for Solving Unmet Needs, appointed David Polunas as CEO of the hospital, which will employ 400 people. About 270 of the jobs will be newly created.

SUN began managing St. Elizabeth’s behavioral health units last May, and nearly 100 St. E workers will become employees of SUN in December of this year.

St. Elizabeth Physicians hopes to hire 11 psychiatrists, two addiction medicine specialists and two internal medicine doctors as well as nurses, psychologists, social workers, therapists and intake specialists.

About $2 million of the project cost is to purchase the license to operate 57 short-term, inpatient psychiatric beds from NorthKey Community Care. SUN is now managing NorthKey’s operations, and more than 40 NorthKey workers will become SUN employees. NorthKey was founded in 1966 as the Northern Kentucky Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board.

St. Elizabeth will transfer 140 of its own behavioral health and chemical dependency beds to the new hospital. About 58 of the St. E beds previously approved for a former location on 20th Street in Covington are no longer in use. The St. E health system operates a Falmouth drug and alcohol treatment center, which will remain in operation. It also will retain an outpatient center at its Edgewood hospital.

In addition to its Edgewood hospital, the St. E health system operates hospitals in Fort Thomas, Florence, Owenton and Williamstown as well as a Covington ambulatory center with a 24/7 emergency room and more than 100 primary care and specialty office locations. The system is sponsored by the Diocese of Covington.

Article by Barrett J. Brunsman of the Cincinnati Business Courier.