Children and adults in the Fresno and Madera counties region struggling with mental health challenges soon will have a local hospital where they can get help.
On Monday officials celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new 128-bed River Vista Behavioral Health Hospital, located on the campus of Valley Children’s Hospital in southern Madera County.
Once the hospital is fully up and running — and CEO Dr. Robert Dutile said the 128-bed facility might achieve accreditation by September — no longer will adults and children need to travel to Bakersfield, Sacramento, or even out of state to get treatment.
The facility will open initially with 10 beds for adults and will gradually expand to provide inpatient and outpatient services for adults and children as young as 5.
“It’s just kind of a standard of practice that we open the adult unit. We want to make sure our staff are fully trained,” he said. “And you typically have individuals (staff) that have a lot more experience with adults.”
River Vista Behavioral Health Hospital is the newest facility that’s owned and operated by Universal Health Services, which has hospitals across the U.S.
Longtime Valley Children’s Goal
Valley Children’s CEO Todd Suntrapak said opening the new facility fulfills a longtime goal of the Valley Children’s board.
“When I first began as CEO at Valley Children’s, in conversations with our board, they were really, I’ll say, singularly focused on some of the things that we were not doing or that we weren’t doing well or needs we weren’t meeting. And the very top of their priority was behavioral mental health services here in the Valley, and especially for kids,” he said. “And my marching orders were very clear: You have to figure this out. You have to make a difference. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped to arrive here today, but I think everybody will agree, we picked the perfect partner.”
It’s noteworthy that Universal Health Services is the first organization to be sold a portion of the Valley Children’s campus on the north bluff of the San Joaquin River, Suntrapak said.
Universal Health Services has vast experience in operating such hospitals, with more than 200 in 39 states, including 11 in California, said Kerry Knott, senior vice president. In 2022, Universal’s facilities served more than 700,000 behavioral health patients, he said.
Knott said River Vista patients can be assured of continued support from their communities, based on the relationships that are forged between the hospital, public agencies, and other organizations.
Those agencies include the Madera County and Fresno County Departments of Behavioral Health.
Connie Moreno-Peraza, director of Madera County’s department, said the county has been busy over the past two years expanding its crisis continuum of care to make it available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to residents in need. The county just last Friday expanded its services to include a sober center for adults and a crisis service center for children, youth, and adults, she said.
The need for behavioral health services continues to grow in the wake of the pandemic, which created anxiety and depression for many, and as the number of youth and adults addicted to drugs continues to grow, Moreno-Peraza said.
“We want to increase access to behavioral health. We want to reduce homelessness, right? We want to place folks locally so they don’t leave their families, their loved ones. We want to reduce incarceration if at all possible. We want to intervene early. We want to focus on prevention and early intervention so we don’t have folks come to this highest level of care,” she said, before quickly adding, “We will keep you full — no worries.”