JEFF DAVIS CO., GA (WTOC) - Jeff Davis Hospital - the county hospital in Hazlehurst - is adding a specialty that few rural hospitals tackle: mental illness.
Few, small rural hospitals have the staff or the space to deal with mental illness. The hospital in Hazlehurst will be one of the few.
"I'd say half the calls we answer, or more, connect to mental health or alcohol abuse or drug abuse," said Chief Ken Williams, Hazlehurst Police.
Plenty of them and others end up seeking treatment at Jeff Davis.
Members of the local hospital board and others broke ground for the $2.4 million expansion. It will house 10 patients at a time for either mental illness or substance abuse. Hospital leaders say a loan from USDA will help them build this center that not only helps these patients but also takes some pressure off other parts of the hospital.
"A lot of patients come into our Emergency Department. If the organization doesn't have services for them, we end up transporting them," said Tammy Mims, Hospital Administrator. "Mental health is a tremendous need, not only in Jeff Davis County but surrounding counties too. It's been very, very difficult to place patients."
"And when we do find somewhere, they don't have a bed for them, and it takes days on end for them to get there - for them to open up a bed," said Allen Crawford, Chief Operations Officer.
That can mean the patient is stuck waiting there or in jail for the meantime. Chief Williams says trips back and forth to Georgia Regional and elsewhere tie up officers, vehicles, time, and money.
"A facility like this in our town, in our community, would save taxpayer's manpower and gas and money," Chief Williams said.
This expansion also means adding a psychiatrist, nurses, and other staff for this wing - 14 new jobs in all.
They hope to have construction finished as early as October.