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AMC CEO: “New Sweeten Creek Mental Health Wellness Center best in behavioral health services available in WNC

Clint Kendall, FACHE, MBA, MSN, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. He started his career as a nurse, and that perspective still informs his work and passion for the patient experience. Clint holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Nursing, and Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Carolina University. Clint has also earned the Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) certification, and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Nurses Association (ANA)

In these columns, I have often spoken about how important it is to connect with others, pursue activities and hobbies that bring us joy, and take time to rest and recharge — in other words, to take great care of ourselves. It’s also important that we all understand how intertwined our physical and mental health are. Each feeds the other, and if we realize we are struggling emotionally, there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional help.

There are also many who live with a diagnosed mental illness, like depression or bipolar disorder, and need to partner with their providers to manage it, often through the use of medication and therapy. Unfortunately, our history with treating mental illness has been shrouded in secrecy, and remnants of this discomfort around talking about mental health and seeking behavioral health services still remain, unfortunately.

Thanks to HCA Healthcare and Mission Health, our community is soon going to be able to take advantage of a top-notch mental health resource. In September, a beautiful new facility, the Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center, will open its doors to provide the best in evidence-based inpatient and outpatient services. The 84,000- square foot, 120-bed Center is close to Mission Hospital in Asheville and offers patient spaces for music and art therapy, a gymnasium, and a cafeteria, while a basketball court, a horticulture area, and courtyards that foster a feeling of tranquility grace the 25-acre compound.

It’s not an overstatement to declare that the United States is currently in a mental health crisis. The need for services is profound, yet mental health practitioners are in short supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.2 million visits to hospital emergency departments are due to neurodevelopmental, mental, and behavioral disorders, and 57.2 million visits to physicians’ offices per year result in mental disorder diagnoses. Depression is high across our country too, with a Gallup study reporting that rates have climbed, with 29% of American adults reporting that they have been diagnosed with depression at some point during their lives. This is 10 percentage points higher than just eight years ago. During the same period, the number of Americans who are living with or being treated for depression has also gone up significantly. It’s now 17.8%, an increase of approximately seven points.

Sadly, factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence in schools, and social media have contributed to our children and teens also suffering soaring rates of anxiety and depression.

The need for behavioral health services is especially urgent in rural areas like Western North Carolina. Some of the factors that make accessing this care challenging are that there is a shortage of mental health care providers, obtaining health insurance is harder for rural residents, and there is not as much availability of affordable broadband internet, which limits getting mental health care via telehealth.

It is hard to accurately express just how much of a difference Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center will mean to Western North Carolina, with these much-needed services and beds for patients. The Center represents a $65 million commitment to our community’s mental health, as it serves the needs of patients as young as four years old on up to adolescents, and young adults through older adults. Adolescents and adults will be able to use the Center’s inpatients and intensive outpatient services, and all patients will be able to avail themselves of advanced mental health services that specifically address their individual treatment plans.

Patients can be referred for treatment by their provider, or they can refer themselves by calling 828-213-4696. Because of the facility’s ability to offer treatment both on-site and via telehealth by providing telepsych care, a patient’s location will not prevent them from getting the behavioral healthcare they need. The Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center hosted an Open House last month, with tours given by staff of the impressive and beautiful new facility, and time for visitors to learn more about the treatment that’s offered and the fact that they are already thinking about future needs, with plans for additional wings that will house over 40 more beds.

It’s time for us all to become more aware of the importance of taking care of our mental health, seeking help when we need it, and encouraging our friends and family to get help if we see them struggling. I am so happy that we now have the Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center to offer critical onsite and remote services to those who need them in our region. And remember, it’s not a sign of weakness to say “I need help with my mental wellness.” It’s a great strength.


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