SANFORD — Projects costing up to $34 million, including a new in-patient behavioral health unit and an expansive elder care facility at Southern Maine Health Care’s Sanford Medical Center, are scheduled to open in 2020.

“This is a commitment to this whole campus,” SMHC President Nathan Howell said in an interview in the Founder’s Room at the Sanford campus. “Our intention is to develop the campus, and this makes it much easier.”

The in-patient behavioral health unit will replace a similar but smaller unit now located at the Biddeford campus. The project will include renovations to in-patient areas of the Sanford campus that have been vacant since the fall of 2015, and other improvements to the hospital’s infrastructure.

The $11 million behavioral health project is expected to generate more than 50 new jobs and provide critically needed bed capacity for York County patients who are experiencing short-term crises from diagnoses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders, Howell said.

Maine Behavioral Healthcare will operate the unit, as it does the existing unit in Biddeford.

Behavioral health cases have increased 20 percent over the past year, reaching more than 250 cases each month at the emergency departments in Biddeford and Sanford, hospital officials said. That has led to unacceptable wait times, said Dr. Robert McCarley, psychiatrist and vice president of medical affairs at Maine Behavioral Healthcare.

“These patients, who are our friends, neighbors and family members, often present at local emergency departments where they may wait extended periods of time for a bed, and in the process cause a domino effect of delays for other patients requiring emergency health services,” McCarley said in a news release announcing the project.

Howell said behavioral health patients will still be seen in emergency rooms on both campuses, and if a determination is made that a person needs in-patient care, that will take place in Sanford.

Currently the Biddeford unit can accommodate 12 patients, who stay an average of eight to 10 days. The new unit in Sanford is planned to eventually accommodate up to 42 patients in a mix of single and semi-private rooms, but will open with capacity for 30 in the first year, Howell said. Patients will have individualized discharge plans that require them to be transitioned to continuing care in their home communities, he said.

Howell said SMHC officials have already been talking to community leaders about the projects, and that feedback has been largely positive.

The behavioral health unit is scheduled to open in the spring or summer of 2020.

ELDER CARE PROJECT

The $23 million elder care facility, to be built and owned by Sandy River Company of Portland and located on the Sanford Medical Center campus, will be operated by North Country Associates, based in Lewiston. The new 94-bed facility, which must undergo state review to acquire a “Certificate of Need,” is expected to have 30 memory-care beds and is scheduled to go open in the fall of 2020.

Founded in 1982 by John Orestis, North Country Associates operates 25 facilities in Maine and one in Harwich, Massachusetts, said Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Richards. It is the largest provider of long-term care and assisted living in Maine.

“This will be our first center that is started from the ground up,” Richards said Wednesday in an email. “We look forward to offering jobs to the current employees of the Newton Center. This new center will need many more staff and will likely create 40 or more jobs for that area.”

Southern Maine Health Care currently operates the 50-year-old, 74-bed Newton Center nursing home and had operated a 24-bed memory-care facility called The Pavilion and a 14-bed residential care facility called Hillcrest Gardens. The latter two facilities have closed.

Residents at Newton Center are expected to transition to the new facility, hospital officials said, and then the Newton Center will be torn down.

“The new Eldercare Center will include more private rooms than any other center of its kind in Maine and bring back memory-care services,” said Patsy Aprile, chief operating officer at Southern Maine Health Care. She said the new center is expected to be organized into communities depending on the level of care residents need – each with its own designated dining room, activity and green space.

SMHC’s Sanford Medical Center is also undergoing a series of projects to upgrade technology and modernize its appearance. A new MRI machine was installed in December, and other enhancements include improved lighting, sidewalk replacements and curb repairs, seal coating in the parking lot, landscaping and new carpeting. The renovations are the latest in more than $10 million of improvements made to Sanford Medical Center since Goodall Hospital merged with Southern Maine Medical Center in 2014. Other investments have included expansions and enhancements of outpatient care services, imaging technology, infrastructure and more.

ROOTS AT GOODALL HOSPITAL

Howell took the reins as president and CEO at Southern Maine Health Care in May. He was born at Goodall Hospital, now the Sanford Medical Center, and his family has roots in the Saco area.

“Ninety years ago, Sanford opened the doors of its own community hospital,” Howell said. “Today, we are proud to announce that we will continue that tradition of caring for our community with a series of projects intended to reinvigorate this campus, create new jobs and provide much-needed health services. By working together with our partners at MaineHealth, Maine Behavioral Healthcare and others, we can more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of those we serve.”

Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or at:

[email protected]