“The intent is really to provide comprehensive care for women suffering from addiction who are pregnant ... and ultimately be able to help them find recovery, support their families and be able to keep families together as they develop long-term skills for remaining in recovery,” said Trish Baise, the CEO of the new Ballad Health Behavioral Health Services Division.
Ballad Health announced the new initiative on Monday afternoon, several days after the health system publicized the creation of its new behavioral health services division. A system spokesperson said the new services at Greeneville Community Hospital won’t require any new construction, but they will involve renovations to existing space.
Baise said Ballad has not yet decided the precise nature of those services or a start date, but she noted that the system has started the process of meeting with local leaders, physicians and community providers to determine how to implement them.
“We’ve identified this as really the largest gap in need across the region and also an extremely vulnerable population and the ability to have a significant impact on families is really there by providing comprehensive services focused on long-term recovery rather than just maybe detox and initial acute addiction services,” Baise said.
The system said in a press release Monday that the new initiative has been made possible by consolidating acute care and surgical services in the hospital’s east campus. Starting Sept. 1, all emergency services will be integrated at the east campus, a change Ballad said was motivated in part by advice from local physicians and emergency services leaders.
“Since before our recent merger, we have said that eliminating duplicative services will create the capacity we need to bring new services to our region and our communities,” Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said in the system’s Monday press release. “This investment will create much-needed new services for women who are pregnant and in need of treatment designed to give their children a strong start.”
Levine said the new services are only possible because the system now has available capacity at Greeneville Community Hospital’s west campus, which he said will create access for other “critical” services and create new jobs in Greeneville.
Greeneville Community Hospital used to be two separate facilities: Laughlin Memorial Hospital, which is now the system’s east campus, and Takoma Regional Hospital, which is now the west campus.
“We had two facilities that had been long-term competitors for many, many years and really a lot of time, energy and focus on competing with one another for the same patients, going back and forth,” said Tammy Albright, the CEO of Greeneville Community Hospital.
Albright said both hospitals were underutilized before the merger and were dealing with a less than 30% occupancy rate.
“We have lots of space and we’re really spending a lot of energy, resources doing the same thing, so with our consolidation we’ve been able to really focus and move services to one campus or the other,” Albright said.
Before deciding to shift emergency services to the east campus, Albright said leaders did maintain emergency rooms on both campuses to see how the community would respond.
“As soon as we announced where services would be, we started to see a shift in volumes, so the volumes in the east campus started picking up,” she said. “The volume on the west campus and the acuity started to decrease.”
Albright said leaders noticed this change in patient flow and decided it would be better to consolidate those resources in a single facility to serve patients “in a more-efficient manner.”
Baise said the new services for pregnant women at the hospital’s west campus will seek to address the underlying causes of patients’ addiction, which could stem from a history of trauma or abuse.
“This is meant to be a long-term program,” Baise said. “It’s not intended to just address the immediate acute addiction issue and then try to transition out. It’s about creating partnerships in the community to identify and connect with the best resources.”