Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

County OKs $100,000 rescue for mental health

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Monday agreed to allocate $100,000 to expand mental health services at the county's community health agency, which is taking on some 700 patients that had been served at Pardee Hospital's out-patient clinic.

The request from Blue Ridge Community Health Services came as the agency scrambled to expand behavorial health capacity after Pardee closed its Psychiatric and Addictions Therapeutic Healing Services (PATHS) unit on May 1.
With the board's approval of $100,000 in funding, Blue Ridge will add psychiatric services for the first time to its Hendersonville Family Health Center on the Pardee campus.
The county has the money set aside without having to dip into reserves, said County Manager Steve Wyatt.
Each year the state requires the county to allocate a certain amount of money for mental health through the regional provider, which is now the Smoky Mountain Center. The so-called maintenance-of-effort payments to Smoky Mountain have not over the past two to three years used all the money the county has budgeted, Wyatt said.
"We've been able to accumulate about $118,000," he said. The savings created "an emergency pool of money the board still has control over till June 30 and we're going to be recommending a one-time use of that money for that purpose. We think that's a good use of it."
"In Western North Carolina we have a shortage of psychiatrists, medical doctors," he added. "We had a situation where we lost two recently in that Pardee program," resulting in the closure of the PATHS clinic. The hospital will continue to offer in-patient psychiatric treatment and a detox unit.
Blue Ridge Community Health CEO Jennifer Henderson said the agency would use the money to expand its mental health services "to ensure that these patients are not left without a psychiatric home."
"What it will do is it will allow us to build an additional behavioral health team that'll be located in our Hendersonville Family Health Center and it will include psychiatry, counseling, case management and some clinical support services," she said. "That'll make sure that these individuals have a primary care medical home as well as primary care psychiatric home and we will make sure that the services are coordinated with Pardee Hospital for in-patient treatment and Smoky Mountain Center to make sure that the services are complementary and referrals are smooth."
"Adding psychiatric providers will add to the learning experience for our famiy practice residents," she added, because Blue Ridge teaches a comprehensive approach to providing care. "It's really an integral part of their training and it will help to have psychiatric providers available for consult."
Adding the counseling clinic at the Hendersonville Family Health Center will also give patients a second access point and it will mean that former PATHS patients won't have to travel far from where they had been going for care. Many of them have transportation challenges, Henderson said.
Blue Ridge Health participates in a federal program that allows it to buy psychiatric drugs at a discount and pass along the savings to uninsured patients.