New Psychiatric Hospital Opens in Davidson -

New Psychiatric Hospital Opens in Davidson

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Davidson, N.C. (WJZY) -- "We intend to take our first patient on Monday," said Thomas Gettelman.

Welcome to Davidson's new psychiatric hospital. It's on Highway 73 outside Huntersville.

"Most people if they drive by and didn't know we were a psychiatric hospital, they would not think we were a psychiatric hospital," said Gettelman, the facility Executive.

It's built to look more like a lodge, a nature getaway.

"We're in a lovely area where it's wooded and very peaceful. From the high ceilings, wood floors, colors of the wall, we've tried to make people feel comfortable," said Alisha Romeo, the hospital director.

It's a place folks struggling with mental illnesses can go for help.

"We have 3-22 bed in-patient units. Two of the units will be focused on mood disorders, depression, bi-polar. The third unit will be focused on dual-diagnosis. A person comes in with a primary mood disorder and has a substance abuse case as well," said Romeo.

That includes PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We see people with symptoms in three clusters. The first is what we call re-experiencing symptoms. Those are flashbacks and nightmares. The second cluster is avoidance symptoms. Someone who had a military trauma might avoid news coverage about the war or might avoid watching war movies or when asked about it might not want to talk it. The third is hyper-arousal. People might be jumpy, not want to have their back turned against the door, they may get irritable, or get in a fight easily. These all can be warning signs," said Romeo.

She says the Fort Hood shooting and others like it point to a poor mental healthcare system nationwide.

"If we gradually reduced the amount of insulin available in the United States or the amount of diabetes treatment available in the United States, and looked at people in the 1960's who had insulin and looked at people today who didn't, we would see serious illness. I think that's what's happening now. I'm happy we have a healthcare system here that's taking this seriously. There is no health without mental health," Romeo.

According to Carolinas HealthCare System, the amount of in-patient psychiatric beds in the country has decreased more than 90 percent over the past 50 years.

"In the Mecklenburg County region, the local statistic is that from 1990 to 2010, the population has doubled, but the amount of psychiatric beds have been cut by more than half," Gettelman.

A problem this new lodge-like hospital hopes to help solve.

"What we will see on the news for maybe the next four days, all sorts of reporting on this tragedy in Fort Hood in a similar fashion to other tragedies that have occurred and then it stops. How many times will we have to see this before we have better mental health access in this country?" Romeo.

Patients stay an average of 8 days at the hospital. They are then discharged to an aftercare, partial hospitalization, or out-patient psychiatric care.

Hospital physicians works 7 day shifts. That allows the team to build a better doctor-patient relationship during their stay.

Doctors aren't the only ones helping the patients. The hospital has an English Golden Retriever therapy dog named Guinness. Peer support specialists, or folks formally suffering from mental illness, help educate and accompany the patients.

For more information, visit the hospital's website.

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