State regulators have given Morton Plant North Bay Hospital the go-ahead to build Pasco County's first in-patient facility for children and adolescents needing psychiatric care.
The Agency for Health Care Administration approved the 10-bed facility as part of a Dec. 4 settlement agreement with North Bay, hospital spokeswoman Beth Hardy said.
Hardy said North Bay, owned by Clearwater nonprofit Morton Plant Mease Health Care, has not decided where it would build such a facility.
One possibility, she said, is to add the beds to the Harbor, the New Port Richey mental health center that offers short-term emergency care aimed at stabilizing patients. The proposed in-patient facility would provide longer-term care.
The hospital's plan is to start construction sometime in mid 2010.
The settlement agreement came about because, in July, North Bay challenged the state agency's earlier denial of its application to build a 70-bed psychiatric facility — which had 60 beds for adults and 10 for children — in central Pasco County.
The hospital was also contesting ACHA's related decision to approve a rival plan by Ten Broeck Tampa to build a 40-bed psychiatric and substance abuse hospital for adults near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Pasco.
As part of the Dec. 4 agreement, North Bay agreed to drop those challenges. That decision paves the way for Ten Broeck, an affiliate of privately-held United Medical Corporation of Windermere, to pursue its plans.
Hardy said that North Bay insisted on the inpatient services for children, already a component of its original plans, because of the need in Pasco. Presently, children who require that kind of care must travel out of the county.
"This gives a very much needed resource in this county," she said.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.