State to add 56 beds at Catawba Hospital

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) The dust is flying outside Catawba Hospital, where an upgrade is now under way.

And soon the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will be adding capacity: 56 beds over two years.

"Catawba is uniquely situated," said Daniel Herr, Deputy Commissioner for Facility Services, "because it actually has two floors that have been vacant and un-funded."

Legislation approved by the General Assembly requires state mental health facilities to serve as "the bed of last resort," and admissions from temporary detention orders have soared.

The department said it remains committed to community-based care whenever possible, but it's clear, the agency said, that state hospitals need more beds and the health care workers to staff them.

"Our budget request and planning is for there to be 60 staff to support the first 28 beds," Herr told WDBJ7 in a telephone interview, "and 60 staff to support the addition of 28 more beds in the following year."

The department says the beds are considered temporary, but will remain in place as long as they are needed.

Roanoke State Senator John Edwards described the news as "terrific."

He and others worked to keep the hospital open after Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed closing the mental health facility in 2015, and Edwards said he's happy the state has decided to expand capacity there.