CLARKSVILLE — A new facility is committed to addressing the need for mental health services for the area's senior population.

Assurance Health System is preparing to open Brightwell Behavioral Health, a new geriatric psychiatric facility at 1612 Blackiston View Drive in Clarksville. The in-patient facility will provide specialized, short-term care for seniors with conditions such as Alzheimer's, dementia, anxiety, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia and behavior disturbances.

Representatives from Brightwell, One Southern Indiana and the Town of Clarksville celebrated a ribbon cutting Wednesday during an open house, which included tours of the hospital. The 13,500 square-foot hospital has been a four-year project, and it is scheduled to open by the end of the month.

Assurance Health System, a company focused on the mental health needs of seniors, serves Indiana and Ohio, and it identified Southern Indiana as an area in need of geriatric psychiatric services. Brightwell is a 22-bed hospital, and it will typically care for patients for about 10 to 14 days to address mental health crises. Patients will usually be age 65 or older.

Brightwell's facility will offer 24/7 care with a team of more than 40 multidisciplinary providers who will provide individualized care for patients, including a psychiatrist, medical director, psychologist, activities director, doctors, social workers and nurses.The services will include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and activity therapy.

Wayne Huffman, regional CEO at Assurance Health System, said many facilities will work with geriatric patients, but Assurance is one of the few psychiatric services that primarily focuses on geriatric patients.

"It gives us a chance to really hone in on a specialty, and our physicians that we hire all have experience with geriatrics," he said. "It really lends a great deal of care to patients that we see. We have a very good success rate with the patients that we do see. I get the biggest satisfaction when I talk to a family member after a couple weeks, and they tell me, 'that's not the same person you brought in there.' So that's where we get our reward."

Brightwell's job is work with patients one-one-one through activities, medication adjustments and other treatment "to get them on the best course we can get them," he said. The rooms were designed to be safe for psychiatric patients, and the facility will offer a variety activities designed to "stimulate the brain."

"With dementia patients, it's the deterioration of the brain — it starts eating away," Huffman said. "So what we want to do is to try to get them to exercise their brain — it's just like any other muscle. So we do a lot of activities with them."

Loni Williams, Brightwell's director of nursing, said there is a tremendous need for geriatric psychiatric treatment in this area, and she looks forward to helping the Southern Indiana community through Brightwell's services.

"We're going to provide great care," she said. "I can't wait to show Clarksville and this whole area what we can do here."

Clarksville Town Councilwoman Jennifer Voignier expressed her appreciation for the addition of the facility at Wednesday's ribbon cutting.

"I just want to welcome you and thank you for taking care of our elderly," she said. "It is an aging society that we live in. As much as we hate to say that, it really, really is, and my parents are right there — they are the baby boom generation, and we need to take care of them."

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