Firm plans to open Santa Rosa psychiatric hospital



A Southern California firm says it will open a psychiatric hospital in Santa Rosa within a year, a development that should end the practice of shipping patients who need long-term care to other counties.

Sonoma County's last remaining acute-care psychiatric hospital unit, operated by Memorial Hospital, closed in April 2008.

"I don't have to tell you that the need here is significant, and not only for the county but for neighboring counties," said Blair Stam, executive vice president of Corona-based Signature Health Care.

Signature has purchased the mostly vacant licensed medical complex on Fulton Road that had been the site of the Memorial Hospital psychiatric unit.

Stam said Signature plans "90-plus" acute psychiatric beds for both adults and adolescents. There has not been such a facility in Sonoma County for adolescents since the mid-1980s.

Stam said the hospital would offer medication management, group therapy and individual counseling and a secure facility for voluntary and involuntary admissions.

The new owners will seek to modify the Fulton Road facility's existing license to provide 90 to 92 acute-care psychiatric bed. The current license provides for a mix of urgent-care, psychiatric and adult-rehabilitation beds.

Memorial Hospital previously announced plans to open an urgent-care facility on Sebastopol Road that would replace the Fulton Road clinic.

Michael Kennedy, director of mental health services for Sonoma County, said that a 90-bed psychiatric facility would go far beyond serving mental health patients in Sonoma County. Kennedy said it will fill a vacuum for patients and families in Lake and Mendocino counties.

"Most communities don't have that resource anymore," Kennedy said. "No, we don't need 90-plus beds, but the area does. They will be taking admissions from the surrounding counties."

Kennedy said that just a few years ago, "there were too many psych beds," but now, opening such a large facility has become financially viable because of the closure of so many mental health facilities.

"The only way for a psychiatric hospital to make it is a regional approach," he said.

Ralph Monta?, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, said Signature has not submitted its application for revamping the facility.

Retired psychiatrist Dan Marrin, who owned the Fulton Road property along with retired dentist Jim Berger, said that the sale of the property brings back much-needed psychiatric beds, but it also means the the facility will lose its licensing as a general acute-care hospital.

Prior to negotiations with Signature, Marrin and Berger had been talking with local health care providers such as Southwest Community Health Center to open a full-service medical facility at the Fulton site that also would have housed the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program.

Marrin said the group had spent $100,000 planning the project, known as the West Side Medical Center, which would have been the only such facility on the west side of Santa Rosa.

"We had to bail out on them; we couldn't continue our plan. We had to sell the property when Memorial closed the program out there," he said. The mortgage payments on the property totaled $105,000 a month, he said.

Marrin said he got less than the $20 million he and Berger were asking for, though he declined to reveal the exact amount.