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Highlands Hospital opens renovated behavioral unit

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Cutting the ribbon for the opening of the renovated Behavioral Health Unit at Highlands Hospital in Connellsville on Friday are (from left) Gary Reed with the USDA, state Sen. Richard Kasunic, Highlands Hospital CEO Michelle Cunningham, Highlands Hospital Board of Trustees Chairman Bruce Jaynes and Behavioral Health Unit clerk Jennifer Ritenour. 11/15/13

A holistic approach for treatment was officially opened to the public on Friday with the newly renovated Behavioral Health Unit at Highlands Hospital in Connellsville.

Bruce Jaynes, chairman of the hospital board of trustees, said Highlands started planning for the renovations to the Behavioral Health Unit in 2010. With funding of $2.8 million, the project was completed in one year and under budget.

“That's something we can be proud of,” Jaynes said at an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

Highlands contributed $320,000 to the project and received a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This has been a long process, but we made it,” said Gary Reed, USDA area specialist. “I'm glad to be a part of it.”

The Highlands Hospital Behavioral Health program focuses on providing care for people 14 and older, with a concentration on making a smooth transition back to daily life. Meeting specific needs at this point in their lives is a big part of the treatment.

State Sen. Richard Kasunic said the issue of mental health is something that affects everyone, directly or indirectly.

“If left untreated, tragic things can happen,” Kasunic said.

The Behavioral Health staff had significant input and recommendations for the philosophy of care and the environment of the unit.

Some of the suggestions from staff were to utilize healing modalities, such as drum circles, music therapy, art therapy, aromatherapy and healing gardens, to name a few.

The Behavioral Health Unit reportedly will be the only inpatient care treatment center in Fayette County and takes a holistic approach to healing for the mind, body and soul of all patients.

Under the medical direction of Dr. Ahmed Jahangeer and managed by licensed social worker Diana Lowry, director of Behavioral Health, the program is designed to make patients feel at home while providing a safe environment for treatment.

“This is a very needed facility for the people of Connellsville,” Jahangeer said, adding that behavioral health is more effective when it's in the community that it serves.

“The name of the unit we're celebrating today is named Tranquility,” said Lowry, adding that the program was designed to treat the body, the mind and even the soul in a safe place for the staff and the patients. “It's taking into account the entire person.”

Michelle Cunningham, chief executive officer of Highlands Hospital, said the program will be a place where patients will be respected, nurtured and unafraid in their treatment.

“This will inspire healing and nurturing of the mind,” Cunningham said.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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