OSF seeks to build the largest mental health hospital in downstate Illinois

OSF HealthCare is seeking regulatory approval to build a 100-bed psychiatric facility in Peoria. It will be the largest adult psychiatric hospital in Illinois south of Chicago.

In this edition of Sound Health, OSF’s Director of Behavioral Health Physician Services, Dr. Samuel Sears, explains that the facility will help address a severe shortage of psychiatric beds in the region.

“Any one of the hospitals that has an inpatient unit is very often full and ends up having to send people quite a distance, often even to the Chicago area where there are more available beds,” Sears said.

Sears’ added close-to-home care helps families stay more engaged in treatment plans.

Sears said OSF has seen more patients in crisis since the COVID pandemic and that has put more stress on the system.

History of US HealthVest

The for-profit company working with OSF HealthCare to build a psychiatric hospital in Peoria has encountered multiple health and safety violations at a hospital it operates in Washington state. Problems at Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital in Marysville, Wash., prompted that state to reject a bid by New York-based US HealthVest to build another hospital.

After media reports surfaced about the problems surrounding Smokey Point, a Massachusetts healthcare company abandoned plans to partner with US HealthVest for a psychiatric facility there. Inspectors in Washington said a common complaint from workers at Smokey Point is that the facility is understaffed.

US HealthVest will be the majority owner of the Peoria Mental Health Hospital, Sears said.

Sears said he could not speak to the alleged violations at Smokey Point, but said it is not unusual for inspectors to find areas of remediation or repair at any health care facility.

“I would never discount whatever findings are found in different states, but I will say that part of the challenge is that there is always an evolution of what needs need to be met in terms of meeting the inspections,” Sears said, adding , that OSF has referred patients to US HealthVest facilities in Chicago and they have had no problems.

“The facilities in Illinois are (taken) excellent care of. I see no reason why that shouldn’t continue,” Sears said, adding that one of US HealthVest’s mental health hospitals in Chicago is one of the few in Illinois that can provide dual mental health and substance abuse treatment for patients on Medicaid.

Sears said US HealthVest will handle staffing at the psychiatric facility because for-profit companies can pay staff more. He said that’s important given the shortage of behavioral health workers.

“It can be difficult in this market right now to get a high degree of staffing while having to follow nonprofit principles,” Sears said.

Sears said the hospital, which will be built on OSF property on Illinois Route 9 near other OSF HealthCare facilities, will create about 200 jobs.

Faith healing

As a Catholic health care organization, Sears said OSF HealthCare will provide faith counseling and resources to any patient in need of psychiatric treatment.

“It’s something we don’t shy away from,” Sears said. “We’re happy to work with them to add that pillar of faith as part of their treatment, but it’s not something we push on any individual who doesn’t want it as part of their treatment.”

Sears said he believes OSF’s faithful commitment is also embodied in the care it provides to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

OSF hopes to have the facility open by late 2024 or early 2025.

A spokesman said OSF does not yet have a cost estimate for the project.

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