Children, adolescents and adults struggling with psychiatric problems and substance abuse have a new option for treatment in Greater Cincinnati.

SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky, a 197-bed behavioral health hospital, has opened its doors in Erlanger. SUN Behavioral Health, a for-profit New Jersey-based company, teamed with St. Elizabeth Healthcare on the 149,000-square-foot facility.

SUN is the managing partner for the hospital that will consolidate St. Elizabeth’s in-patient behavioral health programs in Northern Kentucky.

“Because we’re large we’ll be able to offer specialized in-patient programs so it won’t be one program fits all,” says Dr. Chris Lockey, SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky’s CEO.

In addition, he says, SUN (which stands for Solving Unmet Needs) will be offering its care to anyone in the Tristate.

“What’s exciting about our program is we can take in patients directly,” he says. “So patients no longer have to go the emergency room if they’re struggling with a psychiatric crisis. They can come directly to us for assessment. We have our own intake department that’s open 24 hours a day.”

SUN will introduce all its programs in phases over several months, but Lockey says in the few weeks since opening in February its intake department has been busy.

“We have a crisis in both mental health and substance abuse in this country because we don’t have infrastructure anymore for treating these patients,” he says. “So there’s a tremendous need for places like this all around the country and especially in this area.”

Mental health disorders account for more disability than any other illness, including cancer and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One in four American adults experiences an episode of mental illness per year.

SUN’s facility, located on 13 acres on Dolwick Drive overlooking Interstate 71, is the third of four the company is opening around the country and is its first newly built facility, Lockey says.

“It’s designed to be comfortable, welcoming, therapeutic and safe for everybody,” he says.

The building, shaped like a capital “H,” with living units on each wing, includes a lot of open space, including four courtyards.

The center of the building includes a gym with basketball courts, a chapel and occupational therapy rooms.

The living spaces are designed in a modular fashion so the number of beds around nursing stations can increase or decease depending on need.

Besides its specialized inpatient services, SUN offers two levels of outpatient treatment.

The first, partial hospitalization, is one step down from in-patient care and involves treatment six hours a day for five days a week. A step below that is an intensive outpatient program, which typically is three hours a day, three days a week.

“Someone comes in with severe depression for example, they get treated here and then transition to the partial hospitalization program, receiving intensive care but on an outpatient basis. They then could transition to the intensive outpatient program,” he says.

Lockey, who graduated from UC College of Medicine and was former medical director at Sibcy House at the Lindner Center for Hope in Mason, says, “The partnership with St. Elizabeth has really been fantastic. Our goal is to provide the best care in the region and by that I mean we’re here for the entire community.”


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