May 31 marked the one-year anniversary of SUN Behavioral Columbus, currently licensed as a 72-bed inpatient facility for people with mental-health and substance-abuse problems at 900 E. Dublin-Granville Road.
Lance Folske took over as CEO of the New Jersey-based company's central Ohio facility March 26, and he's still getting used to his new surroundings after six years in the Dallas area.
"Every commute is 15 minutes?" he said. "That's just amazing."
Folske was the guest speaker and host for the June 12 meeting of the Northland Area Business Association.
SUN Behavioral purchased the former Clarion Hotel and Suites Conference Center in April 2015. President and CEO Steve Page said at the time that transforming the building into a 110,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital with potentially 144 beds represented a $25 million investment.
"We've got folks who are going through just about everything," Folske said during his remarks to members of the business organization.
SUN Behavioral accepts voluntary and involuntary patients, he said. The former accept that they need help, while the latter mostly don't and getting treatment for them requires showing that they represent a danger to themselves or others in a court of law.
"The challenge with all this stuff is proving it," Folske said. "It's really difficult to get someone to stay here ... A lot of our admissions are 'volun-told' by their families."
Folske said he believes the stigma attached to mental illness is finally dying down. People no longer think of psychiatric hospitals as the grim place portrayed in the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," he said.
"I have been very blessed to be a part of a movement in the country, really, of doing away with that stigma," Folske said. "I don't even know if we have a straitjacket here. That's not what care looks like anymore."
"A place like SUN Behavioral is so essential," said Dave Cooper, president of NABA. "We're glad they're in the community."
The average inpatient stay at SUN Behavioral Columbus is eight days, with a maximum of about 20, depending upon the person's insurance, Folske said. He stressed that SUN Behavioral is a for-profit company, but said personnel can help potential patients explore insurance options, and the Columbus operation offers free level-of-care assessments.
"We are all one hard day away from being a patient," Folske said. "Sometimes I think they're a lot more courageous than we are because they asked for help.
"Unfortunately, some people's rock bottom is deeper, darker and scarier than others."