New facility offers much-needed mental health, substance abuse services to rural communities

LewisGale Hospital Pulaski Behavioral Health Unit welcomes patients Tuesday

PULASKI, Va. – A new facility in the New River Valley is expanding mental health and substance abuse services.

"The opioid epidemic has hard hit Pulaski," said Leigh Gathings, program director for LewisGale Hospital Pulaski’s Behavioral Health Unit. "We wanted to go the extra step to make sure that we could assist them and didn't have to send them to another facility for treatment."

Workers at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski's new Behavioral Health Unit are stocking the shelves and putting finishing touches on the state-of-the-art facility as they prepare to welcome their first patients next week. The 16-bed unit will be a temporary home and provide much-needed help for adults struggling with mental health issues and, thanks to a special license, addiction.

"We specifically requested that license because of the opioid crisis in the area," Gathings said.

Until now, this kind of treatment wasn't available in the NRV, forcing patients to travel across the commonwealth at a time when being close to home and family is crucial.

"Access to care is really a challenge. There are a lot of people who are unserved or underserved by psychiatric services. To be able to bring those programs here to people where they need them is critically important," LewisGale Hospital Pulaski CEO Sean Pressman said.

Pressman said two-thirds of people who need inpatient care in the NRV have to travel outside of the area because of a lack of service.

The hospital hand-picked a staff of 25 from a field of more than 140 applicants to ensure it had the best people in place and created a welcoming environment, complete with the resources patients need for recovery.

"It's to take that next right step and to partner with that patient and partner with our community," Gathings said.

"To serve individuals, but by serving those individuals, making the community a better place," Pressman said.

The facility opens to patients Tuesday.

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