Saint Thomas officials started construction this week on a 76-bed psychiatric hospital, which is their first in Nashville.
It's a rare partnership with a for-profit operator to run the facility — Acadia Healthcare — but they say patients will barely notice the difference.
"For example, we'll have chaplains that are available," says Amber Sims, chief strategy officer of Saint Thomas, which is part of the Catholic Ascension hospital chain. "This will feel like any other Ascension facility when it comes to the unique careisms that we provide to our patients and families."
Saint Thomas provides psychiatric care on a small scale at some of its hospitals. When it decided the city needed a free-standing facility in MetroCenter, Sims says they went looking for a partner like Acadia.
The publicly-traded firm based in Franklin runs nearly 600 psychiatric hospitals and behavioral health facilities around the country.
"We don’t have experience in behavioral health, in-patient clinical support. We don’t have partial-hospitalization programs," Sims says. "They bring every aspect of behavioral health expertise to us, but we layer on, really, our mission into the work."
Although the joint venture will not be tax-exempt like other Saint Thomas hospitals, Sims says Cumberland Behavioral Health, as the facility has been named, will retain its standard charity care policy and treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Acadia, meanwhile, will take the lead in physician recruitment and back office support.
The company has increasingly partnered with nonprofit institutions. It opened Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital in 2018 and has plans for several more announcements in the coming months.
"Local hospitals know what their community needs. We know how to help them succeed," says Acadia chief medical officer Michael Genovese. "There are very few organizations that know how to do behavioral health well."
Tristar also operates a psychiatric hospital in Nashville, so it contested the need for another with state regulators during the Certificate of Need process. But the Saint Thomas officials say the additional 76 beds are badly needed, especially with MetroCenter's new crisis center and the city's efforts to decriminalize mental illness.
The $32 million facility was approved unanimously and is scheduled to open late next year.