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Study reveals Catawba Hospital renovation cost

Renovating Catawba Hospital to treat people with substance use disorder could require an investment of as much as $240 million from Virginia government, according to a study commissioned by the state legislature.


That investment to renovate the state-run psychiatric hospital in Roanoke County would serve a growing need, and in the long-term save money for the state, according to the feasibility analysis report for Catawba Hospital Campus Transformation, delivered to state lawmakers by John Littel, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources.


“It should be noted that every dollar spent on increasing access to care for substance use disorders results in a savings of $11, ($4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs),” reads a copy of the 127-page analysis, obtained Tuesday by The Roanoke Times.


Catawba Hospital has been state-owned property since 1908, transitioning from a tuberculosis sanatorium in the 1960s to a behavioral health facility.


It’s one of nine mental health facilities operated by the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and one of three located in the Appalachian region of Virginia.


“The rise in substance use disorder nationally and particularly in the Appalachian area of Virginia over the last 20 years has resulted in an increased need to treat individuals for substance use disorder and the mental health issues which often accompany the disease,” the analysis reads. “Located at the epicenter of this growing crisis in the Commonwealth, Catawba Hospital is poised to become a state-of-the-art facility for substance use disorder treatment and recovery of individuals with this disease.”


Data in the analysis demonstrated a strong connection between mental illness and substance use disorder.


Between 35% and 55% of patients treated at the three state hospitals had both substance use disorder and mental health illness, according to the report. Just 10% of patients had only substance use disorder and no underlying mental illness.


“The transformed Catawba Hospital campus would support patients with dual diagnoses, a person who experiences both a mental health issue such as depression, and a substance use disorder concurrently,” according to the report. “Today we know that individuals who are dual diagnosed with disorders who have successful and long-lasting recovery must be treated for both conditions at the same time.”


Three proposed tiers of renovations are recommended, ranging in scope and cost from $147 million to $240 million.


All three proposed plans call for more inpatient beds, plus a new outpatient care, education and research building unique to substance use disorder treatment, to help address growing need.


“After fully analyzing the IBM/Watson data and the DBHDS historical data, it was determined that there is a need for approximately 100–150 Acute Behavioral Health Beds, 80-120 residential [substance use disorder] treatment beds and 16 Detox Beds in the surrounding Catawba Hospital area through 2030,” according to the report.


A public-private partnership was suggested, to manage day-to-day operations of the renovated space.


“Currently Catawba Hospital has sufficient staff to perform its mission. However, in all three option models, additional staff with potentially different expertise will be needed,” according to the report. “Current lack of reliable public transportation is a significant barrier to transforming the Catawba Hospital campus into a best-in-class expanded facility.”


The Roanoke-based Valley Metro was floated as a possible solution for the public transportation issue, though analysis said new routes to Catawba Hospital would require approval from that service’s governing board.


The feasibility analysis was conducted on behalf of state agencies by Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated, a real estate services company, using $750,000 allocated for that purpose by state lawmakers last year.


With state legislature convened in Richmond until March for its annual lawmaking session, Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, is carrying a bill that would direct state agencies to carry out the transformation of Catawba Hospital “into a state-of-the-art facility at which a continuum of substance abuse treatment and recovery services is provided.”


The bill, HB 2192, filed Jan. 11, awaits referral to a House committee. During an interview before the start of session, Rasoul said the bill is about tackling the opioid epidemic, and realizing the full potential of Catawba Hospital.


“It’s several hundred acres that we could be utilizing better, at least for substance use disorder inpatient treatment,” Rasoul said. “Our hope is for the analysis to warrant a significant investment on the campus to have more resources for the area.”


(Source: The Roanoke Times)

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