Garner lands mental health treatment center

Posted March 28, 2011 11:18 a.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2011 6:53 p.m. EDT

— A company that provides behavioral health services to adults and adolescents plans to open a treatment center in Garner and create 250 jobs, officials said Monday.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Strategic Behavioral Health moved forward with plans for the center only after state lawmakers removed a controversial route through Garner for N.C. Highway 540 from consideration by state transportation engineers.

The company plans to build a 92-bed residential treatment facility for troubled youth ages 6 to 17, President and Chief Executive Jim Shaheen said. The $12 million, 56,000-square-foot facility will employ 250 nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, counselors and support staff, he said.

Strategic Behavioral Health has a similar 72-bed facility for adolescents in Leland.

Patients usually stay at the treatment centers for four to six months, and families often visit to participate in therapy, Shaheen said.

"There usually isn't any (security) issue with the community. The kids aren't out and about in the community," he said, noting all treatment and education is handled inside the secure facility.

Construction of the Garner treatment center is expected to begin in May in the Greenfield Business Park off U.S. Highway 70, with the facility scheduled to open by June 2012.

Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said the treatment center's location in a business park, which also is home to trucking and flooring companies, and not near a residential area adds to the security.

"It will fit well because, if you do the research, they are proven in their locations elsewhere," Williams said. "There have not been problems, and I've already talked to the police chief. If problems do arise, they're going to be on top of it."

The mayor and police chief in Leland said teens occasionally run away from the Strategic Behavioral Health center there, but the cases are usually resolved quickly and without problem.

Some area psychologists who treat teens said the center is needed, noting that they often have to send their patients as far as Greensboro for in-patient programs.

Strategic Behavioral Health's decision to move forward with the Garner project came after recent legislation passed by the General Assembly that eliminated the so-called “red route” option for an extension of N.C. 540.

The state Department of Transportation said it had no plans to use the red route for the highway, but it needed to study the option to meet Army Corps of Engineers requirements for an environmental permit that would allow construction to begin on the "orange route" south of town.

Garner officials lobbied for the law barring study of the red route, saying the possibility of a highway through town was keeping companies like Strategic Behavioral Health from opening.

“As the red route issue surfaced in the middle of our land search and due diligence, it was the unified effort of the community and its leaders that convinced us to stay and hope that the route would be removed so that we could move forward with this project," Shaheen said. "We are pleased to be able to build and operate this facility in Garner, as the community leaders have made us feel very welcomed and supported.”

Williams called the mental health treatment center "the type of high-end business that will be a long-term community and state asset."