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By Hiroko Sato

MediaNews

DEVENS — Last year, about 2,200 mental-health and substance-abuse patients from Central Massachusetts had to go outside the region to get emergency care because local hospitals had no available beds.

And those who did get help locally waited as long as 17 hours in emergency rooms, according to Michael Krupa, CEO of Winchester-based Health Partners of New England.

Krupa’s wish to help these patients access the care they need is about to become a reality as Health Partners of New England and GFI Partners, a Boston-based real-estate advisory firm, are together building a 75,000-square-foot hospital in Devens.

Named Health Partners Treatment and Recovery Center, the 104-bed facility will be at 85 Patton Road. It will provide short-term in-patient care for psychiatric and substance-abuse problems, and be the first psychiatric hospital to open in this part of the state, Krupa said.

Construction began last week.

“I’m very excited about this. I have wanted to do this for many years,” Krupa said in a phone interview.

“As the home to businesses specializing in science and health-care innovation, Devens is an ideal location for a front-line treatment center,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said in the press release.

MassDevelopment, a quasi-state economic development agency, manages the former Army fort community of Devens.

“85 Patton Road provides Health Partners Treatment and Recovery Center with plenty of space near industry leaders along with Devens’ excellent infrastructure, utilities, and location. We’re pleased to welcome Health Partners New England to the Devens community,” Jones said.

If all goes well, the recovery center will open in the late summer or early fall of 2016.

The opening comes in the midst of what experts call a dramatic shortages of beds for psychiatric and substance-abuse treatments across the country. Reimbursement rates for such care have been so low that hospitals could not break even and many of them reduced the number of beds or shut down the units, said Laurie Martinelli, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Health Massachusetts.

After federal and state changes requiring insurance companies to equally cover physical and mental-health-care costs, reimbursement rates are improving, Krupa said.

Martinelli said patients from Lowell sometimes end up in a facility as far away as Pittsfield because of the shortage of beds.

“This is great,” Martinelli said of the anticipated opening of Health Partners Treatment and Recovery Center.

Krupa said Devens stood out as an ideal location for the new facility because of the easy access to Route 2 and Interstate 495. He expects patients to come from about a one-hour drive in all directions.

Devens’ expedited and streamlined permitting process was also a major factor in decided to build the hospital there, Krupa said. In addition, finding a property in the right size in a district clearly zoned for hospital use was important, he said.

The hospital is expected to have various types of positions that will amount to about 200 full-time jobs.

Health Partners New England, which Krupa founded, provides consultation, interim leadership and management services for behavioral health-care organizations across the country, including development of new psychiatric programs.