On Jan. 23, following a unanimous “Yes” vote by the Charlotte City Council, StarMed’s pediatric behavioral health care facility took one step closer to becoming a reality. StarMed Healthcare, based in Charlotte, has a proven track record of providing quality healthcare services to communities in need. The company has a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of families through innovative and compassionate care. For the past year, StarMed has been working closely with the City of Charlotte to acquire a city-owned property in an effort to bring a new, state-of-the-art pediatric behavioral health care facility to the community.
The facility, located in east Charlotte at 5516 Central Avenue, will provide the highest level of care to children and families suffering from behavioral health issues. This new facility will be equipped with the latest technology and staffed by a team of dedicated and highly trained professionals. With this new facility, StarMed Healthcare is taking a major step forward in fulfilling its mission of improving the lives of children and families in Charlotte and across the region. The facility is critically needed, given the soaring mental health challenges facing children, and it will have a major impact on the quality of life for the residents of the Queen City. The most recent data available highlights the need, as North Carolina ranks 45th out of 50 U.S. states in available access to quality pediatric behavioral health care services.
“Our healthcare organization is dedicated to serving and improving our community. We witnessed the rising rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents, and their families over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation that existed prior to the pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Estramonte, StarMed Healthcare President and Founder. “Families across Charlotte have experienced enormous adversity and disruption. The structural inequities that exist have contributed to disproportionate impacts on children, especially from Black and Hispanic communities. We must address this critical issue in North Carolina, with Charlotte leading the way with this facility.”
Treatment at StarMed’s facility will range from the most serious conditions to a potential outpatient center that young patients can transition into. It will combat some alarming trends, including:
• North Carolina currently has a 400-bed shortage across the state for children going through mental and behavioral health crises, with many families having to choose out-of-state options.
• Atrium Health has seen a 65% increase in emergency department patients needing psychiatric care. For children in need of psychiatric care, the demand tripled in the wake of the pandemic.
• Young people have experienced higher levels of depression, with 44% of U.S. high school students in 2021 reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
• North Carolina ranks 44th nationally in access to mental health care and 45th overall for pediatric mental health care.
• UNC Medical Center’s main psychiatric clinic saw a 150% increase in patients per month from spring 2020 to spring of 2022.
• More than 50% of behavioral health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% develop by age 24.
• The average wait time to get into 1 of 3 North Carolina-based behavioral health hospitals is 144 hours (more than 5 days).
The 36,348-square-foot building is situated on a 3.89-acre lot at 5516 Central Avenue. The new facility will include between 30 and 50 beds for pediatric patients and create approximately 145 jobs ranging from behavioral health specialists, doctors, counselors, and social workers to cafeteria staff, security personnel, and clerical and administrative positions.
StarMed’s facility also will include a significant investment in a mentorship and training program that will create a foundation for a meaningful experience by fostering a purposeful relationship guided by clearly defined standards and goals.
The mentorship program will provide members the opportunity to learn from other work leaders and clinicians in a healthcare setting developing their leadership skills to mentor colleagues through the same growth process.
In June 2022, the three state-run psychiatric hospitals averaged a 23% staff vacancy rate, totaling more than 1,000 empty positions. StarMed’s program will develop qualified candidates to fill these career opportunities. The organization will also partner with CPCC and UNCC social work and clinical psychology programs to develop a training and vocational program.
For the next several months following the sale, StarMed Healthcare plans to work closely with Mecklenburg County and North Carolina officials to obtain all necessary certifications to operate the new behavioral healthcare facility. We are committed to meeting and exceeding all regulatory requirements and standards to ensure that the facility provides the highest level of care to its community.
The behavioral health facility hopes to open in late 2024.