Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

New Hospital in Davidson Represents a Second Chance

The following article appeared as a “Letter to the Editor” in many Lake Norman regional publications the week of April 7, 2014.

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

This past week, community and business leaders received a firsthand look into the new Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson. Standing in the courtyard, I was struck by how much the new facility resembled a hotel, rather than a healthcare facility.

Our new behavioral health hospital was not without controversy as elected leaders and neighborhood opponents in Huntersville rejected the earlier concept. While the denial for a rezoning of the parcel was in essence based on “it just didn’t fit in”, I suspect the truth is many of those who opposed the idea of a behavioral health hospital gave into their fear of the unknown.

A large segment of our population simply do not know how to react to people with disabilities. Few of us understand the daily challenges facing those with disabilities and their family and caregivers.  Even more taboo in our society are those with “mental issues.”

Yet one in four, will at some point in their life, have a behavioral health issue.  It is a statistic that is both startling and undeniable. Still, we whisper at the dinner table about the neighbor down the street or the colleague at work, and assume it will never be someone in our family – unfortunately, one day, it may be.

The tragedy of last week’s shooting at Fort Hood brings the issue of mental illness to the forefront. The bigger question is – could it have been prevented?  Our local communities know all too well the heartache of teenage depression and suicide.

Not long ago, I ran across an article that the Rev. Billy Graham wrote.  In it, Rev. Graham says, “If God is in control of everything, why do bad things happen to us?  I’d like to believe in God but I just can’t understand this.”

Graham answers that he’s been asked a hundred times why evil is allowed to take place. He responds, “I have to tell you honestly that I do not know the answer – not fully.” He goes on to point out that in all our challenges, God is with us and in the end, we’ll get through it – together.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

At the opening of the hospital, we heard administrators and healthcare officials share their plans for the new facility and the strides we were making in mental health.  The most poignant comments though came from the mother of a child who battled healthcare issues and a young lady who discussed her own challenges.

She said this hospital represented a second chance. Receiving quality care, she overcame depression and anxiety and today is making a significant contribution to our community both as a parent and a citizen.

We still have a ways to go as a community to fully understand the challenges facing those with disabilities.  As business and community leaders, we need to ensure Building Codes are written which make it easier for those with disabilities to have access to the same resources we often take for granted.

In an age where we are striving to embrace diversity, we must overcome our fear of those with behavioral health issues.  As Reverend Graham pointed out, we may not always understand why bad things happen to good people, but how we react to those bad things reveals our very character as a people.

The new hospital in Davidson represents second chances and new beginnings for many in our region. It is also a second chance for our community.  After giving into our fear of the unknown and rejecting the facility the first time out, this time – we got it right.

Bill Russell
Huntersville, NC

Bill Russell is the president and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and grater Lake Norman region.

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April 10, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson is a great decision for the Lake Norman region

The below editorial was distributed and has appeared in much of the Lake Norman media.  It is reprinted here in my blog:

Mary Beth Kuzmanovich speaks about the new hospital planned for Davidson

News last week at a press conference held at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce that Carolinas HealthCare System plans to build a 66-bed behavioral health hospital in Davidson was welcomed.  While it could be argued the former site in Huntersville was appropriate given the dramatic increase in the population of that area, the new site, with its easy access to both I-77 and I-85, may prove to be more accessible for our region.

The Chamber was given the unique opportunity last week, not only to host the announcement, but to comment on the facility itself.  The economic impact of this decision is considerable as the total investment of Carolinas HealthCare is estimated at $36 million and will provide 155 well-paying jobs, many of which will be filled from the local employment market.

In addition, the campus itself will serve as an incubator to other ancillary businesses, which will gravitate to that site supplying more economic activity — and with it … jobs!

While there is no question the medical facility will be a significant economic catalyst for Davidson, it provides a critical healthcare need that we lack at the present time.  The loss this year of a high school principal and two young students, and more recently the tragic news regarding a former north Mecklenburg elected official and community activist, who all lost their battle with conditions such a facility may have helped relieve, underscore how much of a need this is.

One in four families hasa member who deals with depression, anxiety, a bi-polar disorder or some other behavioral health issue.  It could be the good-natured fellow that dresses up as Santa for his community and entertains legions of kids at Christmas.  Perhaps, it might be the secretary down the street, or even a child at school.

Behavioral health hospital site in Davidson

The heartfelt and painful admission by a young teenager recently in The Lake Norman Citizen that she herself struggled with depression and tried to take her own life is evidence that depression and behavioral health issues are not confined to any gender, race or age.  Its victims come from all economic and social walks of life.

Without proper diagnosis and treatment, this thief silently changes its victim’s outlook on life and their perspective on the riches of living, leaving in its wake, tragedy and despair for loved ones and friends, many of whom “never saw it coming.”

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Carolinas HealthCare System for pursuing this critical healthcare need despite recent setbacks on prior zoning decisions in Huntersville.  We would also like to convey our sincere appreciation to Davidson Mayor John Woods and the entire Davidson Town Board for stepping in and embracing this facility.

Bill Russell speaking on behalf of the Lake Norman Chamber

Mayor Woods, a banker by trade, understands this healthcare facility will be a significant investment for his town and our region, which will pay huge dividends in the future.  It will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and vitality for his community supplying employment and ancillary businesses that will be attracted to the site.

But more importantly, it will provide a critical healthcare need that is sorely lacking in the Lake Norman-north Charlotte market.  It also sends a strong and profound message to the thousands of residents, family members, friends, colleagues, and kids who suffer from some type of behavioral health issue, that from this day forward help is on its way.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president and chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with more than 900 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and greater Lake Norman region.

May 17, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huntersville needs behavioral health hospital

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a certificate of need hearing for a new 66-bed behavioral hospital planned for Huntersville by Carolinas HealthCare System.  I shared with officials from the Division of Health Service Regulation the need for such a facility and the Lake Norman Chamber’s strong support as our community and region continues to see a dramatic increase in our population.

Del Murphy, Jr. vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Management Company shared with our Chamber leaders the overwhelming need for additional beds for behavioral health services.  Murphy pointed out that on an average day between 20 and to 30 patients are held in the emergency departments and general acute care beds at CMC hospitals in Charlotte, awaiting psychiatric bed placement. CMC-Randolph inpatient occupancy exceeds 100%.  There are simply not enough beds to service our growing population.  I pointed out that the community in which I live, Huntersville, was roughly 3,000 people in 1990.  Today there are 46,773 people living in our town.

Granddaddy Russell with my sister Tanya at our farm (1994)

I also shared a personal story that my Grandfather Russell lived the remaining six years of his life with Alzheimer’s and my Grandmother Feemster battled dementia before we lost her this past February.  I loved my grandparents dearly and spent many weekends with them in the twilight of their life.  I  sat by their bed looking in their empty eyes that stared back at me, wondering who was that stranger holding their hand.  It still brings tears to my eyes to think of those final years we had together.  But just as they took care of me as a child, my family took turns staying with them.  However, many families in North Mecklenburg and South Iredell simply do not have that resource.

Mothers Day 2009 with Grandmamma Feemster at her house

Many families have husbands, wives, sons or daughters who battle mental illness who have yet to be treated or in some cases diagnosed.  Their extended family resources may be limited and their options few.  That’s compounded when they have to travel to outlying counties for service when they live here in our lake region.

We are fortunate to have outstanding healthcare providers in the Lake Norman region, but there can be no dispute that we are sorely lacking when it comes to psychiatric health.    As business and community leaders, we cannot settle for anything less but the very best when it comes to the health of our citizens and employees.  The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce supports this proposed facility

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment