AYER -- Nashoba Valley Medical Center recently began construction on a new, $4.7 million in-patient Geriatric Psychiatric unit, which will be dedicated to providing psychiatric hospitalization to adults 55 years of age or older.

The 10,000-square-foot unit will have 16 patient beds providing 24-hour, 7-days-a-week inpatient psychiatric stabilization services. It will create an estimated 20 new jobs in Ayer as well as generate additional tax revenue to the town due to its for-profit status.

"If we are able to get our license from the Department of Public Health in early November, we will plan on opening the unit on December 1, 2013," Steve Roach, CEO of Nashoba Valley Medical Center, said.

The hospital developed their original plan in 2007, but did not execute it at that time. The plan as since been revised in 2012 with collaboration with Steward Health Care when they decided to move forward with the project.

"Market studies show that there's a need for at least 30 new Geri-Psych beds in the local (30 mile) market," Roach said, "Patients are forced to travel long distances outside of the community to receive Geriatric Psychiatric treatment, which often causes significant stress on patients and their families." The closest units like this are in Clinton and Gardner.

"Our goal is to help our seniors continue living happy and full lives as they age," said Roach. "We are excited to be able to offer comprehensive medical and psychiatric treatment in a secure environment with private rooms, calming music, soothing colors, art work, and activities that are specifically designed with the senior population in mind."

The in-patient program will care for individuals with any one of a number of acute or chronic or psychiatric conditions, including but not limited to: acute dementia with behavioral problems and those needing medication management, severe depression, anxiety, psychosis, and bi-polar disorder. The scope of services includes crisis intervention, intake, medical and psychiatric evaluation, treatment planning, family education, and discharge planning.

Psychiatric disorders affect a large number of seniors. Along with depression and other common conditions, their diagnoses include problems related to progressive physical decline and isolation related to medical issues.

The program promotes wellness and assists both the patient and caregiver with skills and tools helpful in achieving an optimum level of functioning as well as emotional stability while staying in their own community.

"The Geriatric Psych unit will be an added benefit to the overall care provided in the community. Locally provided care benefits both the patient and their family by eliminating the stress of having to move the patient and the family to locations that are not familiar to them. Reducing these stressors improve the overall outcomes for patients and their family," Roach said.

Julia Kacmarek contributed to this story.