The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (NCDHHS) has selected Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon Hospital) in Avery County, N.C., to receive a $6.5 million grant to expand the availability of behavioral health beds in the western region of North Carolina.

The funding for this grant originated from the Dorothea Dix Hospital Property Fund, which was created by the North Carolina General Assembly from the sale of Dorothea Dix Hospital in 2015. The Dorothea Dix Hospital Property Fund was established as a part of NCDHHS’s plan to expand the number of beds that provide crisis stabilization and inpatient behavioral health care.  The plan calls for 150 new behavioral health inpatient beds across the state.

Over the last five years Cannon Hospital has experienced an increase in the demand for behavioral health inpatient beds from across the region. In 2016 Cannon Hospital received more than 5,000 psychiatric referrals, but was only able to admit 560 psychiatric patients. Additionally, in 2014 the US Health Resources and Services Administration reported that, “30 counties in North Carolina were designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.” Avery County (where Cannon Hospital operates), was among those counties.

Currently Cannon Hospital operates as a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital and as a 10-bed behavioral health unit. Cannon Hospital also provides an emergency department, imaging, laboratory, outpatient behavioral health, a rehabilitation center, a surgery suite and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation services. This full-service medical campus is the hub of healthcare delivery in Avery County.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will host a public information session about this grant and the future of Cannon Hospital on June 6.