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Behavioral care center for teens planned at Carlbrook campus

South Boston News / February 16, 2017
The future of the shuttered Carlbrook School in western Halifax County is coming into focus with an application by the campus’ new owner to open a behavioral health treatment facility there for youths ages 14-18.

Acadia Healthcare, Inc., a global provider of behavioral and mental health services, will operate locally under the name of Southstone Behavioral Healthcare Center. The company envisions a residential facility licensed to provide treatment and educational services to adolescents ages 10-18, although the clientele is expected to fall in the upper half of that age range.

Southstone Behavorial Healthcare Center will have 64 licensed beds — 40 male, 24 female — with facilities that include the existing dormitories, a commons building, outdoor recreation areas and dining hall.

While the “beautifully developed and maintained” former private boarding school is “(i)deal for longer term recovery or additional treatment setting,” there “will be no acute or addiction treatment services provided at this campus,” according to a land use application the company has filed with the county.

The Halifax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. to consider Southstone Behavioral’s application for a conditional use permit for the 190-acre site.

The application lists a number of planned improvements, such as building renovations, installation of new climate systems, security measures and upgrades in equipment and furnishings. The Southstone campus will be ringed by a secured perimeter, “preferably a 10-12’ fence,” according to the permit application.

While company officials have not commented directly on the Halifax County project, a local official who asked not to be named because of the ongoing nature of discussions said Southstone would likely employ “somewhere between 100 and 150” people in the area.

“The job descriptions would range anywhere from cook to bookkeeper to registered nurse,” the official said.

Job positions would include “all the support staff they would need — groundskeepers, facility technicians, that kind of stuff.”

It is unclear how many behavioral health professionals would be stationed at Southstone, although the facility is expected to be similar to dozens of adolescent treatment centers that Acadia, the corporate parent, operates throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

On its website, Tennessee-based Acadia says it operates a network of 568 health care centers with approximately 16,900 beds for children and adults.

Nearby Acadia facilities include the Lynchburg Comprehensive Treatment Center for adults, two adult care facilities in the Roanoke area, and Structure House in Durham, N.C.

The named landowner of the site, and Acadia subsidiary, is New Boston Treatment Center, LLC.

Up until December 2015, Carlbrook School provided therapeutic services and a college-preparatory high school education for families that could afford the five-figure annual tuition.

The school derived its name from the historic Carlbrook mansion, a rock-walled manor that served as the early 20th century home of tobacco magnate Edgar Carlton.

The “Rock House,” built around 1928, is a state and national historic landmark.

The new owners envision using the Rock House for administrative offices and a campus library, much the same as Carlbrook School did.

Contemplated upgrades are mostly internal — new plumbing, and a $600,000 geothermal system to handle heating and cooling.

Acadia bought the Carlbrook campus for $3.1 million after the owners abruptly shuttered the school with the 2015 Christmas break and declared bankruptcy.

Carlbrook first opened in 2002 at the bucolic site west of Vernon Hill and reached peak enrollment of some 130 students before its fortunes declined with the onset of the 2008-09 recession.

Halifax County Planner Detrick Easley said he expects representatives of the company to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing about their plans for Southstone Behavioral Healthcare. So far, Easley said, Acadia has provided little information about its timetable for opening in Halifax County.

“I think they’re waiting on us for approval of a conditional permit before they proceed with any work out there,” said Easley.

A county official said Arcadia representatives left the impression “that it’ll take a few years to get this up and running” as the company undertakes site improvements and puts together the staff for the treatment center.

County government, including the Industrial Development Authority, has sought to “lend all the standard support of facilitating contacts [with] critical suppliers” and provide what other help and guidance the company may want. The project could qualify for economic development incentives “that might be there regardless of whether they want it or need it,” said the official.

“We’re helping them in any way we can, as we usually do.”

The conditional use permit is needed to green-light the property’s transition from a private boarding school to a youth treatment facility. The Carlbrook campus is located in an A1 agriculture zone. In advance of Tuesday’s public hearing, notices of the proposed use for the property have been sent to adjoining landowners.

The public hearing of the planning commission will be held in the second floor meeting room of the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.

The planners will be asked to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which must vote to finalize the permit. Supervisors will hold a public hearing at their next regular monthly meeting on Monday, March 6.

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