Catholic Free Press

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  • Jul
  • 24

Hospital to buy Sisters’ residence in Petersham

Posted By July 24, 2014 | 1:22 pm | Lead Story #3

By William T. Clew

PETERSHAM – Heywood Healthcare of Gardner has entered into a contract with the Sisters of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to buy their property at 211 North Main St.
The sale of the sisters’ residence and wellness center is contingent on Heywood receiving local, state and federal permits to operate a mental health and substance abuse facility there, according to Win Brown, president and chief executive officer of Heywood Healthcare.
He discussed the purchase and plans for the mental health and detox facility at a meeting Wednesday morning at the residence. It was attended by Petersham town officials, residents and others interested in the plan.
The 21-acre property is occupied by a 74,000  square foot residence, according to the Heywood press release. Maureen Kelleher, marketing specialist and realtor of Worcester, who is representing the Sisters of the Assumption in the sale, said the building contains 122 rooms, including 83 bedrooms.
Heywood Healthcare received a state grant, approved by the legislature in the 2015 budget, of $1.3 million, of which $1 million is to help pay for the purchase and renovation of the property and $300,000 is to pay transportation costs for patients  to the facility.
Mr. Brown said Heywood officials will present plans to the town soon. A new parking plan for the site is scheduled to be presented to Petersham officials next Thursday. A meeting is scheduled with the Petersham Zoning Board of Appeals Aug. 16, he said.
He noted that the residence has not been on the Petersham tax rolls “for 75 years.” He said Heywood officials are willing to talk to town officials about the possibility of a payment in lieu of taxes to the town.
Mr. Brown said that if all goes well, (“and there have been no red flags raised,”), he hopes the sale closing will be Oct. 31.
Mr. Brown said in an interview after the meeting that the price of the property was $680,000. He said Heywood will spend an estimated $500,000 to put in a new septic system. He estimated that it will cost about $10 million to complete  the transformation of the residence to a mental health and substance abuse facility and have it ready for full occupancy. The costs will be borne by federal and state grants as well as some philanthropy.
In his talk, Mr. Brown said that North-Central Massachusetts and the North Quabbin area are in need of a mental health and detox facility. There is no room at Heywood or in Athol Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital that is part of Heywood Healthcare.
Signs displayed at the meeting made the case for the new facility. One said that Heywood Healthcare, the only provider of in-patient provider of mental health services in the area, turns away 2,500 patients in urgent need of care each year from Heywood Hospital alone because of limited bed space. Another stated that the adolescent suicide rate in the area is five times the state average.
Mr. Brown said there will be in-patient, lockdown areas, beds for transient patients and out-patient treatment. He said there will be security “24/7 on the property” and Heywood officials will work with local police. Services will be expanded as the demand increases. In a year, if things go as expected, there will be more than 100 employees at the facility.
He said Heywood looked at the Sisters of the Assumption property and said it showed good possibilities. The infrastructure is excellent. It was designed for in-patient care and living in a serene environment. Major construction to convert it to a mental health and detox center and bring it up to code will be within the footprint of the present building.
“I believe it was no accident that Heywood ended up deciding on this property,” Mr. Brown said. “The history and mission of Catholic orders has long been to meet unmet needs in communities, specifically addressing the social and health needs of vulnerable populations.
“In my early hears in hospital administration – along with Athol Hospital COO (Chief Operating Officer) Mike Grimmer – I worked for St. Mary’s Regional Hospital in Lewiston, Maine, one of the state’s largest providers of behavioral and addiction services.
“A key tenet of our work was the belief in demonstrating ‘mercy.’ Having mercy means having a selfless willingness to be called into the chaos of others’ lives.
“We have talked time and time again at our board and committee meetings that we, too, are being called into the chaos of mental illness and addiction, just like the Sisters (of the Assumption) who were called to educate generations of children in their schools and to care for their aging members in the nursing wings of this amazing place.
“I believe we are being called here today to continue that important legacy of service and care.”
Heywood Healthcare is an independent, community-owned healthcare system located in the North Central region of Massachusetts, according to its press release. It  comprises Heywood Hospital, a non-profit, 134-bed acute-care hospital in Gardner; Athol Hospital, a 25-bed not-for-profit, Critical Access Hospital in Athol; Heywood Medical Group, with primary care physicians and specialists located throughout the region; and four satellite facilities -Winchendon Health Center and Murdock School-based Health Center in Winchendon, West River Health Center in Orange and Heywood Rehabilitation Center in Gardner.