The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board signed off Tuesday on a plan to build a $34.3 million behavioral health hospital in Peoria.

The hospital, a joint venture between OSF HealthCare and New York-based US HealthVest, will include 100 beds and feature adult specialized inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services, including programs for drug abuse, dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use disorder, women’s trauma, veterans, and seniors.

Martina Sze, chief development officer for US HealthVest, said there has been an “access issue in central Illinois” related to behavioral health services, and it is only getting worse as other systems cut or reduce services.

Other advocates said many patients currently have to go to the Chicago area to access services, which creates further complications when traveling so far from their homes and families.

“We are pleased to relieve a major burden of having to travel so far to obtain needed care,” said Richard Kresch, CEO of US HealthVest.

Officials also defended the application from a review board analysis that found the area already exceeded the necessary number of acute mental illness beds, saying the number has not kept up with the growing demand for services — especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Samuel Sears, director of behavioral health physician services at OSF HealthCare, told the review board he relates the current situation to veterans returning from combat, with individuals struggling to transition to a “different world” post-pandemic.

“We were able to build up an extra backlog from that time, along with all the problems that are bubbling to the surface,” Sears said.

The project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2025.

In other business, the board approved a $388.8 million plan by Northwestern Medicine to add 84 medical surgical beds and 12 intensive care beds to its Lake Forest hospital. It also calls for the expansion and relocation of its emergency department.

Hospital President Marsha Oberrieder told the review board the project is necessary due to high inpatient utilization at the facility in recent years. She noted the total number of patients served by the hospital grew by 43 percent from 2019 to 2021, while the number of Medicaid patients grew by 186 percent over that time.

“One of the lessons learned from the COVID pandemic is that lower occupancy is essential in having the ability to manage unexpected surges,” Oberrieder said.

While the board signed off on the application, several members raised concerns about the high cost of a physical facility.

“I think this is an exorbitant cost,” said Dr. Audrey Lynn Tansley, who was the lone “no” vote on the plan. She and several other members suggested more funds be directed toward transition and outpatient care.

The project is expected to be completed by April 2028.

Other action taken Tuesday includes:

  • Approved a $21.7 million planby Exceptional Care & Training Center to replace its skilled nursing facility in Sterling with a new center.
  • Approved a $29.6 million planby Advocate Health to establish a single-story medical office building in Lakemoor.

Deferred action on a plan by HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur to discontinue OB/GYN, pediatrics, acute mental illness and comprehensive physical rehabilitation services, as well as reduce its medical/surgical bed count by 20.