SANTA ROSA -- The long-awaited opening of a 93-bed psychiatric hospital in Santa Rosa has been pushed back until August due to construction delays, according to the forthcoming hospital's chief executive officer.

"Unfortunately there continues to be delays in the opening related to construction," said Ken Meibert, CEO of Aurora Behavioral Healthcare Santa Rosa. "As such, completion now isn’t scheduled until sometime in August."

The Aurora facility was poised to open sometime this month, about three years after its parent company, Signature Healthcare Services, purchased the 52,000 square-foot facility at 1287 Fulton Rd and announced it would open a full-service psychiatric hospital. The new facility will replace an inpatient psych hospital formerly operated by St. Joseph Health System--Sonoma County that closed in 2008, which created a void of mental health providers in Sonoma County.

Much of the delays stem from renovating the older building as opposed to building an entirely new one,  Mr. Meibart said, adding that more problems have been identified than initially expected.

"If you build from the ground up, that's one thing. But when you go into an old facility ... it's not as clear cut," he said. "When things are getting identified, they're being fixed. There's just more things getting identified."

Corona-based Signature Healthcare has invested about $4 million in the Santa Rosa facility, a figure that is likely to increase with the most recent delays, Mr. Meibert said. An exact figure is not yet known, he added.

Initially, Signature Healthcare anticipated having the hospital open by early 2011, then pushed it back to late 2011 or early 2012 because of a longer-than-expected permitting process with the state.

Despite the delays, Mr. Meibert said he was confident that the hospital would be open by mid August.

"It will happen. Everyone is anxious and we are, too," he said. "With any kind of job, there's always twists and turns."

The new hospital will restore inpatient psych services for adolescents that have been absent from Sonoma County for many years, in turn severely lessening the need to send patients to facilities in Marin, Napa, Sacramento or farther away for treatment, county health officials have said. It will also feature an outpatient component for up to 40 individuals who don't require around-the-clock inpatient services.

Health officials have also said the 93-bed facility could ease the burden on other acute-care hospitals, who often see psychiatric patients in their emergency rooms.

Currently, Sonoma County's Department of Health Services offers 24-7 psychiatric emergency services on Chanate Road, near Sutter Medical Center, that can accommodate patients for up to 23 hours. It also operates a 10-bed crisis residential program on Montgomery Drive for patients who need treatment in a non-hospital setting for up to 30 days.

Aurora Santa Rosa will be the eighth acute psychiatric hospital operated under Aurora Behavioral Health Care and will focus on improving mental health and medical treatment of addictions. Other such facilities are located in Covina, Pasedena, San Diego and Ventura in California, two hospitals in Arizona and another in Chicago.

The hospital intends to employ a staff of more than 300, officials have said.

Mr. Meibert, noting the need for mental health services in the region, offered assurance that the hospital is nearing completion.

"It will still get opened," he said. "No doubt about that."