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Catawba Hospital planning funds slashed in budget agreement

Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County
Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services
Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County

Delegate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke was pushing for money to start the first phase of transforming a state facility in the Catawba Valley to help people struggling with substance use disorder. Rasoul wanted $150 million, but instead the budget compromise has $500,000.

"The time to act is now," Rasoul stated. "Clearly we were disappointed that the Senate didn't take bolder action and say we're ready to move forward with this innovative concept. At least we are trying to take some baby steps here, but a lot of these families need help now."

Senator Creigh Deeds of Charlottesville says starting the first phase of the transformation without a public-private partnership would be a mistake.

"It's a service that's badly needed. It's a good idea," Deeds admitted. "But we were counting on somebody from the private sector coming forward and saying, 'We're here to provide the services.' There was talk early on about a couple of local hospital companies forming a public-private partnership combining to provide the service. But that didn't happen."

Advocates for transforming the 700 acre Catawba Hospital site are hopeful that the half-million dollar appropriation can identify private partners to get the project moving, especially as the opioid crisis continues to make addiction recovery a pressing need.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.