| By John Howell
The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Center has become a model for delivery of rural mental health care, a consultant for a group of hospitals in Arkansas and Missouri said last week.
Ben Bloom of Affinity Healthcare Inc. brought representatives of Piggott Community Hospital in Piggott, Arkansas and Pemiscot County Hospital in Hayti, Missouri to tour the facility which formerly housed the South Panola Community Hospital and which is now known as the west campus of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
"We are here because of the success of the west campus," said Bloom, a clinical psychologist.
"There’s not another rural hospital that’s developed what they have done here," Bloom said.
"I’m not sure the community understands what’s been done here as far as the success of the west campus," the consultant added, noting that the facility did not exist three years ago.
Affinity Healthcare’s Web site states that it has served over 70 rural health clinics.
Bloom said that he contacted Tri-Lakes about its behavioral program based on research which pointed to its profitability and the quality of programs offered.
"None of these (hospitals whose representatives joined Bloom for the Tri-Lakes visit) have behavioral health centers," Bloom said.
"In rural areas there is a lack of access to quality behavioral health care; acute care hospitals are still required to care for behavioral patients," Bloom added.
The consultant said he learned about Tri-Lakes’ intentions to expand behavioral services "in talking to (Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center Chief Executive Officer) Ray Shoemaker about his plans for additional outpatient programs in surrounding counties."
"I don’t see any end in sight," Bloom added.
The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center is licensed for 45 inpatient beds, a spokesman said. The average outpatient census includes 10 senior behavioral health care patients and an additional 12 senior patients who are treated for alcohol/chemical dependency. An average of five juvenile outpatients are seen weekly for alcohol/ chemical dependency, the spokesman said.
The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center is part of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center which Dr. Robert Corkern is purchasing. The City of Batesville and Panola County are joint owners of the hospital facility, but the county is sole owner of the west campus facility.
Corkern was the successful high bidder in the medical center’s sale.
He paid $500,000 in earnest money on June 3 and is expected to consummate the $28 million purchase on September 2.