'We're here to help with the opioid crisis'

Hank Hayes • Jul 13, 2017 at 5:30 PM

KINGSPORT – “We’re here to help with the opioid crisis. One of the issues of the opioid crisis is lack of treatment … if they don’t get treatment, they just continue to use.”

That’s what Memphis-based Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) President Jim Shaheen told the Times-News right before a Thursday groundbreaking on Creekside Behavioral Health, a planned $12-$15 million SBH psychiatric care and substance abuse treatment facility that will go up at the end of Executive Park Boulevard off Stone Drive.


“We expect a year from now to be taking our first patients,” Shaheen noted. “ … This will be our 11th hospital and our ninth building. We have a prototype building we have been using around the country. That speeds up the construction process.”

The 72-bed facility will offer inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care for children, adolescents, adults and seniors, as well as substance abuse treatment for adults.

SBH, Shaheen said, will create between 200-250 new jobs to staff the facility at an average hourly wage of $18-$25 per hour.

“Those of us who have a responsibility for public security and safety understand how important this type of a facility is … you’re going to be a great addition to our health care community,” Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable told Shaheen and his leadership team.

In recent years, Shaheen said SBH did a national study and determined Kingsport didn’t have enough beds for psychiatric services.

Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming pointed out planning for the facility goes back as far as 2013 when he listened to law enforcement concerns about taking mentally ill people to the emergency room.

“It is very unusual for your phone to ring from someone from out of town who wants to invest in your community that doesn’t want something,” Fleming said of his contact with SBH people. “As always, I go into a meeting a little suspect, O.K., he’s going to want a road, tax incentives … he’s going to need something. He didn’t need anything. They said ‘The data drove us here.’

“They realized the Kingsport-Bristol MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) was the most underserved for this service.”

Earlier this year, Mountain States Health Alliance gave up its opposition to SBH’s plan to build the facility. MSHA said in a statement issued in 2016 that it believed the proposed SBH facility would cause harm to Johnson City-based Woodridge, and would make it more difficult for people who are uninsured or underinsured to access the care they need.

But Shaheen noted: “What we found out during the process was Woodridge continued to stay at capacity and this particular (SBH) hospital will be a great addition to the community.”

Shaheen, who founded SBH 11 years ago, promised the new facility will put patients and family first regardless of their ability to pay.

“We want to help this community to deal with a population that doesn’t get talked about very much, that society doesn’t recognize very much … we have to do things differently,” he told those attending the groundbreaking. “Folks struggle with mental health and addiction for years before they get the courage to ask for help. When they finally get the courage to ask, we need to be there for them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they don’t have to go to the emergency room.”

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