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Bartlett CEO shops mental health facility to Chamber

Posted: October 28, 2011 - 12:07am
Shawn Morrow, chief executive officer for Bartlett Regional Hospital, talks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday at the Moose Lodge about building a Child/Adolescent Mental Health Unit on the hospital campus.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Shawn Morrow, chief executive officer for Bartlett Regional Hospital, talks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday at the Moose Lodge about building a Child/Adolescent Mental Health Unit on the hospital campus.

 By RUSSELL STIGALL 

Bartlett’s proposed mental health facility may help bring Juneau’s youth home and improve outcomes in one $23 million stroke.

Many children and adolescents with complicated illness currently have to leave the state for treatment due to a lack of state-wide capacity, Bartlett CEO Shawn Morrow said.

The Bring the Kids Home Initiative documented around 400 to 500 of Alaska’s youth, ranging in age from 6- to 17-years old, have to leave the state annually for treatment of severe emotional disturbances, according to the Department of Health & Social Services.

“This [facility] solves a small part of that problem, I’m not going to tell you it solves it all, but this particular unit will be able to handle detoxification,” Morrow said.

Bartlett designed the facility to accommodate 10- to 14-day detoxification, but will not try to accommodate longer three- to 12-month residential chemical dependency treatment.

A local facility that provides detoxification services can avoid much of the anxiety level created for the youth that has to leave. It avoids the “financial hardship that is created the emotional duress that is created, the lack of the right environment for healing,” Morrow said. It allows treatment for the family along with the patient.

“It is not just the patient that goes into this unit and voila, they come out better. The family has to address and cope and participate in that healing process. The whole model breaks down from a quality of care standpoint when they have to leave,” Morrow said.

Bartlett chose to tackle child and adolescent mental health, because it taps into on the strengths of its current staff.

As reported previously in the Oct. 16 Empire (bit.ly/tyfAsi), Bartlett set aside $5 million last year and plans to have $10 million set aside from its operational budget by June 31, 2012. It plans to begin breaking ground on the $23 million facility sometime in late 2012 or 2013. The 16,532-square-foot facility would house 12 beds. Alaska currently has approximately 40 beds for similar youth services, Morrow said

Completion of the facility may hinge on funding Morrow calls “my wishful thinking.” That wish, Morrow told the Chamber, is to procure $10 million from Juneau’s sales tax revenue.

“We are hopeful, and there is a long long long line of people looking at that sales tax, including people who want to put back in their pockets, who don’t want to be taxed,” Morrow said. “So that is a big question mark.”

The project could be delayed by five to seven years, or cancelled if funding doesn’t come through.

The facility is expected to bring an estimated 18 jobs and $1.5 million in new payroll to Juneau.

Bartlett faces other large expenses in the next few years. Marrow talked about a $7- to $11-million overhaul of the hospital’s information systems by 2013 to meet new demands as part of recent health care reform.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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