Here comes the SUN: New psychiatric hospital christened in Georgetown

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long speaks at the grand opening/ribbon cutting for the new SUN Behavioral Delaware psychiatric hospital in Georgetown. Looking on are State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn and State Rep. Ruth Briggs King. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — Behavioral healthcare becomes localized in Sussex County this week as the SUN is set to rise.

Local and state officials gathered Monday to christen the official arrival of SUN Behavioral Delaware — a 90-bed behavioral health hospital that will provide needed treatment in lower Delaware.

High noon on Tuesday marked the admission process for the first patient referrals.

“In the last 24 hours I’ve had two phone calls about how to get admitted,” said 37th District State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, among the speakers at the Monday ribbon cutting.

“So, we know right away that this is going to be a great answer to so many questions and challenges that we have.”

Located in Georgetown’s College Park development across from Delaware Technical Community College, the two-story, 93,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital will initially provide inpatient services and expand to other services, including outpatient in the not-so-distant future.

Based in New Jersey, SUN stands for “Solving Unmet Needs.” SUN also has psychiatric hospitals in Texas, Ohio and Kentucky.

“We look for the significant need and we look for something else. We look for that community partnership,” said SUN Behavioral Health President Steve Page. “It has been a long time coming. It really is incredible, something that starts as a vision and becomes this reality is just amazing.”

Gov. John Carney and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long were among the dignitaries on hand at the ribbon cutting/open house.

“There are lot of folks who have been doing a lot of incredible work with our lieutenant governor, who carry heavy hearts, because the scourge of substance abuse and opioid deaths and all of the associated problems with it have really savaged communities and families across Delaware,” said Gov. Carney.

A grand-opening/ribbon cutting was held Monday for SUN Behavioral Delaware, a 90-bed psychiatric hospital in Georgetown that received its first patient referrals Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The governor noted that Sussex County for several decades “has been identified as needing primary care physicians, psychiatric and mental health services. So, this facility is so incredibly important to our community. It is realty going to meet an incredibly unmet need. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome you to Sussex County today.”

SUN’s initial game plan for Georgetown is to open with 24 adult beds exclusively for inpatient treatment. Other services will be added once staffing is in place, said Stephen Cooper, SUN Behavioral Delaware community liaison.

“We are opening with in-patient only. But eventually we are going to have partial hospitalization, and then we are going to have intense outpatient,” said Stephen Cooper, SUN Behavioral Delaware community liaison. “For the partial hospitalization they will come here five days a week, about eight hours a day. Then for intense outpatient it is going to be three days a week about three hours a day. We are going to be offering transportation for the intense outpatient. By the New Year we are hoping to have the other programs in place. Eventually we will be adding an adolescence and geriatrics.”

Among the elected officials on hand: Rep. Briggs King and State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn. The two General Assembly members from Georgetown were among the co-sponsors of SB 226, sponsored by then Sen. Hall-Long, now Delaware’s Lt. Governor.

That expedited legislation removed a roadblock presented by an administrative appeal in October 2015 by Universal Health Services, which operates mental health facilities in Dover and Newark, asking the Delaware Health Resources Board to reconsider its decision that granted approval for SUN’s hospital plans for Georgetown.

Senate Bill 226 was drafted, passed and signed into law by then Governor Jack Markell in June 2016. Groundbreaking for the facility in the College Park development was held in November 2016.

“I want to thank you for having faith in the process because when something is needed, when something is right for our area the process works. We’re all here for it,” said Sen. Pettyjohn.

Amy Wood, SUN Behavioral Delaware CEO, prepares to cut the ribbon at the grand-opening ceremony. From left, Ms. Wood, SUN Behavioral Health President/CEO Steve Page, Gov. John Carney, Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce members Linda Price and Anthony DelFranco, and in back Georgetown Town Manager Eugene Dvornick. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“Three years ago, it was a fight,” said Rep. Briggs king. “We overcome objections and obstacles, quickly when needed to make sure the people have the services that they need and deserve.”

“It is really about a community coming together. Today represents a new opportunity for Sussex Countians. You don’t have to drive two hours when you have a loved one who is suffering from depression, bipolar, whatever to really have a place to come to. As the governor indicated we are losing a Delawarean a day to the opioid crisis,” said Lt. Gov. Hall-Long.

“We all thrive in Delaware when our community is stronger and healthier. Today represents that pivotal time to have a stronger healthier Delaware. Years back when we did the Senate Bill 226 little did we know that within two years we would actually go from turning dirt to cutting a ribbon.”

One of the inpatient rooms at SUN Behavioral Delaware. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“The legislators in this state go beyond what we’ve seen anywhere,” said Mr. Page. “This our fourth facility. There has never been anything remotely close to that. This hospital would have been stuck in the courts, by a competitor to slow us down and to keep us out and any competitive practice as long as they could.”

“We’re the county seat. We’re struggling. The whole county is struggling,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West. “This facility is not only going to help the patients but it is going to help the families, being able to be here to support them.”

Initial discussion evolved about four years ago from serious concerns and needs voiced by CEOs from three downstate health-care institutions: Jeffrey Fried (Beebe Healthcare), Terry Murphy (Bayhealth) and Steve Rose (Nanticoke Health Services).

“As we went through and understood what they were seeing we confirmed this is exactly what we need do and we thought we could fit very well. In our mission, it is solving unmet needs with the community that we join,” said Mr. Page.

“This will be a resource for the community. And it is part because of the commitment the community has put forth.”

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