BLUEFIELD — While there is life, there is hope. With these words, Marcus Tullius Cicero summed up the idea that stands behind every program at the Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias.

Now officially a year old, the Pavilion occupies the former site of St. Luke’s Hospital, resting at the foot of East River Mountain and surrounded by green, rolling hills and blue skies.

“We want our patients to see the Pavilion as a place where they can find hope,” Pavilion Director of Business Development Connie Cochran said recently. “We have very nice amenities, in a comfortable and therapeutic atmosphere.”

The Pavilion opened its doors March 1, 2010, moving Princeton Community Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center off its main campus on Morrison Drive and into the state-of-the-art facility that now offers inpatient and outpatient treatment, group counseling, medication management and much more.

“Reaching success has been a moving target this whole year,” said Larry Burchfield, regional director for Diamond Healthcare, the organization that manages the facility. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, the need for psychiatric care is great in this area, and we’re very proud to be able to offer care across the board. We have a full complement of programming.”

In the 13 months that the Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias has been open, it has offered treatment to 1,521 inpatients, enrolled 132 clients in the structures outpatient program and recorded 1,285 traditional out patient visits since July, when Dr. Jeffry Gee joined the Pavilion team as the medical director.

The Pavilion’s behavioral health care specialists include two psychiatrists and a nurse practitioner, as well as six licensed therapists and some very experienced psychiatric nurses. In addition, internists visit the facility daily to examine and treat medical needs of patients admitted to the psychiatric hospital, because many of the Pavilion’s clients exhibit “co-morbid conditions,” meaning they experience health care issues beyond their behavioral health diagnoses or may be facing addition problems that complicate other mental health challenges.

The Pavilion is licensed to offer 64 acute-care beds throughout the facility, including a geriatric unit designated solely for elderly patients also struggling through mental health conditions. However, a shortage of health care providers, including psychiatrists, therapists and qualified nurses, currently keeps the patient volume in the vicinity of 40.

“We demand quality treatment for all of our patients, no matter which program they are admitted to, and this is the number that we believe we can meet that standard for, at this point,” Cochran said.

The search for more behavioral health care providers is constantly ongoing, but in the meantime, Pavilion officials pledge to continue providing a full array of care to the patients of the two Virginias and beyond.

“There’s no county that is excluded from our service area. We see patients in our inpatient unit from throughout the state and Virginia,” Cochran said. “Our structured outpatient program is appropriate for folks who live within about an hour of the facility, because they do take part in daily group therapy and medical treatment.”

Gee said the treatment available to Pavilion clients is top-notch and incredibly personalized.

“The treatment we offer is customized to the patient,” he said. “... We can stabilize them as inpatients, step them down to the structured outpatient program and then decrease their appointments to the outpatient program.”

Both the traditional outpatient counseling program and the structured outpatient system are helpful for patients who need psychiatric care but are able to function within their home communities and families.

So far, both the patients and the care providers are overwhelmingly satisfied with the services available at the Pavilion.

Burchfield reported that patient satisfaction surveys yielded a satisfaction rate “well over 98 percent.” Satisfaction among physicians and referral sources stood at 96 percent. 

The facility has also been an economic development engine and a valuable employer for health care providers and support staff.

“As of this morning, we employ 106 employees that would have been idle, had we not established this hospital,” Burchfield said.

That includes nurses with 20-30 years of experience in psychiatric and medical-surgical nursing, Nurse Manager Lynda Spangler said.

“These nurses have to understand mental illness and all the diagnoses of mental illness,” she explained. “They have to have very good listening skills and a lot of patience.”

Although the Pavilion will treat patients who exhibit addiction complications alongside other mental illness, officials emphasized it is not a detoxification center.

“We are not a detox center, but there are volumes of patients with conditions complicated by addiction. We will treat those people,” Gee said. “We deal with what we call co-morbid conditions. If you’re a schizophrenic and you abuse OxyContin, we’ll treat you, but we can’t deal with patients just coping with addiction.”

Length of stay at the Pavilion varies from patient to patient, but it averages about a week for inpatients.

“Our treatment is very much a custom job,” Gee said, marveling at the fact that such a broad spectrum of therapy is available locally. “This can all happen in our back yard, and not in Charleston or Weston, or wherever these patients used to be shipped off to.”

Cochran said the location of the Pavilion has improved access to care, as well as the ease of referrals.

While doctors or other care providers may refer patients to the Pavilion, potential clients themselves may call a 24-hour Crisis Services/Inpatient Referral line at 304-325-4681, at which time, they will be talking with a mental health professional with at least a master’s degree-level status as a provider.

“That process is usually done within minutes of the time the phone call is made,” Gee said.

At this time, the Pavilion’s greatest need is caregivers, including psychiatrists, therapists and nurses. The facility currently welcomes medical students from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, in hopes of training future Pavilion professionals.

For more information on the Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias, call 304-325-HOPE (4673). In the event of a crisis situation, call 304-325-4681, and to learn more about outpatient services, contact the Pavilion at 304-327-9205.

— Contact Tammie Toler at

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