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Cape Fear Valley Health Celebrates Progress Of Dorothea Dix Care Unit For Adolescents

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FAYETTEVILLE – Cape Fear Valley celebrated another construction milestone recently with the completion of the steel framing for the Dorothea Dix Care Unit for Adolescents. The facility is located on Melrose Road, across from the Cape Fear Valley Health Behavioral Health Care Inpatient Unit. The health system broke ground on the project in November, and it is anticipated to open in late 2021.

Psychiatrist Sree Jadapalle, M.D. signs part of the Dorothea Dix Care Unit for Adolescents’ steel frame Thursday.

Staff and supporters of the project gathered at the site for a brief ceremony Thursday, where attendees were invited to sign their names on the steel supports and tour the construction.

“This is going to help keep kids out of our Emergency Department and get them the help they need,” said John Bigger, Corporate Director of Cape Fear Valley Health’s Behavioral Health and Sleep Center. “This would not be at all accomplished if it were not for our current Behavioral Health staff that worked out of the existing inpatient building on the adult unit.”

When completed, the building will have 16 inpatient beds for adolescents ages 12 to 17. The new state-of-the-art facility will be equipped with psychotherapy staff, psychiatrists, recreational therapists, and others to support the critical components of evidence-based treatment for adolescents.

It will fill a need to allow families to have their children treated locally instead of commuting long distances for inpatient psychiatric help. Children in crisis and their families typically must wait in the emergency room until a bed is available at an adolescent psychiatric treatment facility in North Carolina. Currently, the closest of these is 60 miles away.

“We’re so grateful for the state funding to make all this happen,” said Cape Fear Valley Health CEO Michael Nagowski. “And were grateful for that wonderful lady, Dorothea Dix, God rest her soul. Her legacy continues to live on.”

The facility will also serve the community by welcoming doctors to a new Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency program.

“Next year we’re going to begin training up to 28 doctors to become board certified psychiatrists,” Nagowski said. “It’s the nation’s newest program and we know we need every single one of them.”

Psychiatrist Sree Jadapalle, M.D., said the facility represents a landmark for Fayetteville and the region.

“Right now, our emergency rooms are flooded with kids and adults with mental health crisis,” Jadapalle said. “We really appreciate everyone out here working with us day and night keeping kids safe. When this is finished, I won’t have to tell families their kids are going hours away. Now our families can rest, knowing their kids are staying close to home and getting the help they need.”

Keeping children close to their families during treatment is also beneficial because families are often part of the treatment process and team.

Bigger also reminded supporters that though the cost of the building’s construction is covered by the state, there are many remaining needs and opportunities that the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation is still working to fund.

“We can make this even better, and we’re doing some fundraising through the Foundation, with naming rights and other opportunities available,” Bigger said. “If folks want to, they can still make a donation and have something in honor of a loved one, to help enhance these services we’re going to provide.”