Several years ago, John Strahm, president and CEO of Dayton-based Eastway Behavioral Healthcare, noticed a trend.
Eastway opened its first residential program for teenage girls who’ve experienced trauma in 2012. Of the 24 girls who were referred, more than half were from Columbus. The same thing happened when it opened a residential treatment center for elementary school-aged boys a year later.
Eastway is the largest provider of behavioral health services in Montgomery County. It provides all levels of care to over 2,400 adults and 500-600 kids a year.
Now, Eastway was committing to Columbus children and families.
“We have a commitment when their kids step down from residential, we need to literally take them by the hand all the way back to either home or whatever their after-case place is,” Strahm says.
When you go from a very structured residential setting back to where you came from with all the challenges that represents, the transition requires assistance, he says.
So, as the not-for-profit looked for space in Franklin County to offer outpatient services or possibly a day treatment program, people kept telling Strahm that he needed to see a south side facility that had closed several years ago. It was 36,000 square feet and on 22 acres.
Perhaps Eastway needed to do more than step-down services in Columbus.
“As we met with other potential partners, including children’s services, there was a huge need,” he says.
Eastway looked for a reason not to expand, Strahm says, but the opportunity was too much to pass up because the need was so great.
At the end of 2015, Eastway bought the Starr Columbus Hannah Neil Center, formerly the Hannah Neil Center for Children.
To keep the legacy of Hannah Neil, a 19th-century community activist and philanthropist, the facility was renamed The Heritage of Hannah Neil.
The official ribbon cutting for the residential program was last month, and the outpatient and day treatment programs have been filling up, as Eastway already works with more than 100 kids and their families.
Strahm expects all resident beds to be full by spring. The target population, at the suggestion of children’s services, will be pre-adolescent girls and boys.