MetroHealth plans expansion at Severance

MetroHealth's proposed new Cleveland Heights Behavioral Hospital (in blue, above) will add 75,000 square feet to its Severance campus.

MetroHealth has proposed an expansion of its Cleveland Heights medical center with the addition of a 110-bed behavioral health hospital. The new hospital is designed to be a short-term-stay facility, for patients in need of evaluation and stabilization for mental health and addiction.

Dr. Julia Bruner is leading the design and development of the new hospital, and will serve as president of the behavioral health initiative at MetroHealth’s Cleveland Heights medical center.

In a Dec. 11 presentation to the FutureHeights Planning and Development Committee, Joe Frolik, MetroHealth’s senior vice president for communications and community and government relations, and Bruner described plans for the new facility, which has a target opening date of October 2022.

The MetroHealth Cleveland Heights Behavioral Health Hospital would be built on a section of parking lot at the east of the health system’s Severance facility, and connect to it via the emergency department.

In addition to a new, 75,000-square-foot, three-story structure, plans include the renovation of 21,000 square feet of existing space.

MetroHealth’s capital investment in the construction and renovation is $42 million. Cuyahoga County will contribute an additional $5 million—part of opioid settlement funds it received. MetroHealth is requesting no incentives from the city of Cleveland Heights.

Plans call for no reduction in current services offered at MetroHealth’s Cleveland Heights Hospital, which, in 2019, had 90,000 patient visits. The facility will also remain home to the Regional Dispatch Center. 

MetroHealth brought the proposal before Cleveland Heights City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Nov. 23. In what he described as a “tight timeline,” Frolik said he anticipated that the proposal would go before the city’s board of control in late January or early February, and would be considered by the city’s planning board on Feb. 10. Planning and development are underway, said Frolik, and MetroHealth hopes to have “shovels in the ground by spring.”

“Our investment and commitment support the city’s goal to revitalize Severance,” noted Frolik, a 39-year Cleveland Heights resident. “By investing there, we’re hoping others will see that, and think it’s a good idea to invest.”

In a Nov. 20 letter to Cleveland Heights residents, posted on the city’s website (, Mayor Jason Stein described MetroHealth’s proposed expansion, and stated that city council is supportive. “This is an opportunity to provide a much-needed service while also improving our local economy,” Stein wrote.

Frolik estimates the labor budget for the new construction and renovation will be $12 million, bringing $270,000 in income tax to Cleveland Heights.

In 2019, Frolik said, MetroHealth’s CH hospital had a payroll of $14.6 million, for 190 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. In the new facility’s first year of operation, MetroHealth projects a payroll of $9.6 million for an additional 155 FTEs.

Frolik pointed out that MetroHealth’s minimum wage is $15 per hour. A mission-driven provider, MetroHealth treats all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Between 2021 and 2026, MetroHealth projects the new facility’s income-tax revenue to the city  will be $1.76 million.

The behavioral health hospital will serve adolescent, adult and geriatric patients, with an average stay of 6–10 days. The goal, said Bruner, “is to get them started in treatment and stabilized, then transition them to outpatient care.”

“All facilities will have a locked process,” explained Bruner. “Some patients will be required to stay there because they are at risk of harming themselves.”

“MetroHealth security officers will be on duty, and are well-trained,” said Bruner. “We have a psychiatric department on MetroHealth’s main campus, and have never had anyone leave there who wasn’t meant to.”

Bruner described the hospital as “a mental-health, addiction space, not a medical space.” As such, said Bruner, “It will be more dependent on therapists and therapy technicians, with large areas dedicated to group counseling.”

Because treatment will be going on throughout the day, visitation will take place only during brief evening hours.

Asked about the new facility’s impact on nearby residents, Frolik noted that the existing hospital and outpatient facility at MetroHealth’s Cleveland Heights site already has an extensive buffer of “high berm and trees” between it and adjacent properties. Bruner added, “The placement of the new building recognizes that we have neighbors, and want to be a good neighbor.” 

In wrapping up his presentation to council on Nov. 23, Frolik said, “We look at tonight as the beginning of a long discussion and expansion of our relationship. The city has been a really good neighbor to us, and that’s one of the reasons we look forward to expanding here.”

Stein commented, “We look forward to having some community engagement and public outreach, educating our neighbors and residents about this exciting development, and then, hopefully, April groundbreaking.”

Kim Sergio Inglis

Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer, and is a Cuyahoga County master gardener volunteer.

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Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 11:12 AM, 01.01.2021