OhioHealth Explores Options for Former Nelsonville Hospital Facility

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Options for the future use of the former Doctors Hospital Nelsonville are being explored by OhioHealth, and the end result could be a multi-use facility.

On Thursday, a brainstorming session was held at OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital — which now owns the Nelsonville facility — with several local organizations attending. The session, which was not open to the news media, was a follow-up to an April 29 tour of the Nelsonville building.

“We’re just exploring a wide range of possibilites, everything from behavioral health and addiction services, to educational programming, residential — I mean it’s just a broad range,” said LaMar Wyse, OhioHealth’s point man for repurposing the building.

That facility is currently being used as OhioHealth Nelsonville Medical and Emergency Services, but will close when an new urgent care center opens in Nelsonville, slated for September 2016.

Because of the size and operating costs involved, it’s unlikely that a single entity will take over the former Doctors Hospital Nelsonville, Wyse said.

“It’s going to be a multi-purpose use of some kind, and that’s what this is all about … who can do what, what kind of square footage would they need, what fits where in the facility and what are the costs,” Wyse said of Thursday’s brainstorming session.

He declined to specify who attended the meeting, but described them as representatives of organizations interested in possibly utilizing part of the building or interested in seeing that it is put to a new use.

One of the organizations represented was the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services. Spokeswoman Arian Smedley said that as a government agency that mainly serves the poor, Job and Family Services is interested in any endeaver that will improve the lives of people in Athens County, especially if it means keeping and creating jobs.

“No decisions have been made, but lots of smart people were at the table with the hope of creating something positive for the community,” Smedley said.

Health Recovery Services, which has clients in and around Nelsonville, was represented at the meeting.

“We’re interested in locating services in a way that’s most convenient for our clients,” Executive Director Dr. Joe Gay said when asked why the agency was there.

“We’re just in preliminary discussions,” added Gay, who was one of the people who toured the building April 29. “It’s a nice, well-maintained building.”

Earl Cecil, executive director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (317) Board, was at the meeting. The 317 Board helps fund agencies the provide those types of services.

“I have some providers who ultimately may have (interest in the facility),” Cecil said. “We’ll see how it plays out. … It’s still very preliminary discussion.”

Assistant County Prosecutor John Haseley, who was at the meeting, said that County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn wants to see drug treatment opportunities in the county expanded, and wants to explore the possibility of the Nelsonville facility being utilized for that purpose.

Other organizations were represented at the meeting, including Ohio University and Hocking College.

Wyse said OhioHealth O’Bleness does not want to own the building long-term, and wants to turn it over to some other entity or entities. However, he said it’s way too soon to say what form the new ownership would take.

“We’re not at all at that level of discussion,” according to Wyse.

Any plan for repurposing the building will have to make sense financially for those involved, he said.

“That’s a big issue, to see how can the whole thing be financially feasible,” he said.

Wyse said Thursday’s group will meet again, although a date has not been set.

“We’re just very committed to trying to get that facility used, to provide services, to provide jobs,” he said of OhioHealth.