Architect's contract for psychiatric hospital approved

WILLMAR -- An architect's contract to design a 16-bed psychiatric hospital in Willmar was unanimously approved Wednesday by the operating and joint powers boards of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

WILLMAR -- An architect's contract to design a 16-bed psychiatric hospital in Willmar was unanimously approved Wednesday by the operating and joint powers boards of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

The action was taken by the two boards at a joint special meeting.

Officials hope it will help speed the process of building the facility so it can open some time next summer.

"For that to happen, we need to get moving on this as soon as possible," said Steve Renquist, executive director of Economic Development Commission.

"We understand that we need to move forward on this quickly and at least cost," agreed Denis Anderson, chairman of the EDC governing board.


The EDC is financing the construction of the $4 million facility and will become the building's owner. The deal tentatively calls for the EDC to lease the building to Kandiyohi County, which in turn will sublease it to the Minnesota Department of Human Services for actual operation of the psychiatric program.

Most of these contracts have yet to be signed.

A purchase agreement also is still pending for the land on which the facility will be located -- a site at the corner of Willmar Avenue Southeast and Sixth Street Southeast.

Renquist said negotiations are under way with the property owners. More information may be available by the time the EDC operating board meets next Thursday, he said.

City, county and Minnesota Department of Human Services officials fielded numerous questions Wednesday from EDC board members during the 90-minute meeting.

Board members wanted to know how the site was selected and how the leases might be structured.

State officials also provided a glimpse Wednesday of what the facility might look like and how it'll operate.

The design is for a one-story brick building, similar to state-operated psychiatric hospitals that have been built in cities such as Fergus Falls and Wadena, said Alan Van Buskirk, facilities director for state-operated services with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.


The facility is one of 10 community psychiatric hospitals being built in Minnesota. Six of them are already in operation; another three will open within the next few months.

The 16-bed facility in Willmar will replace acute psychiatric services at Willmar Regional Treatment Center, which is closing.

There will be 16 patient rooms, all private, plus community living space and space for group programs. Patients will have access to a fenced outdoor area.

The facility also will include space and offices for functions such as administration, medical records and laundry. It'll be staffed by some 30 people.

Security measures will include locked doors, cameras and staff supervision. The facility won't take patients who are deemed to be mentally ill and dangerous or who are considered sexually dangerous.

The plan is to contract with outside vendors for daily meals, pharmacy and other services, Van Buskirk said.

Most patients will stay an average of 21 days.

It's the goal of the state to care for these patients using best practices in psychiatric medicine, said Rod Kornrumpf, administrator for state-operated services with the state Department of Human Services.


"This will complement the services that are already available in the region," he said. "We are going to focus on psychiatric care. That's what we're good at... The goal all along has been to provide the services as close as we can to where the individual is from."

The facility will be a place where patients can be assessed, stabilized, helped with medication management and readied to ultimately return to their homes, he said.

Although the proposed site is the most expensive of some 20 sites that were evaluated, state officials said it best meets the needs of patients, families and staff.

It has good access from both Highways 12 and 71 and is easy to find, Van Buskirk said. It's also relatively close to Rice Memorial Hospital and just across the street from Woodland Centers, the community mental health center.

"We think this site is nearly perfect," he said.

State officials said they'll be able to provide services more effectively and more efficiently in a 16-bed setting than they've been able to at the regional treatment center.

For one thing, they'll now be eligible to draw down Medicare and Medical Assistance money that has not been available to institutional programs such as those provided at regional treatment centers.

"The 16-bed facilities are to be self-sustaining," Kornrumpf said. "The rate we charge will be equal to our cost."


State officials said the rates also will be cheaper because overhead costs will decrease. Right now, it costs about $1,000 a day to provide psychiatric care at Willmar Regional Treatment Center. The per diem at the state-operated community psychiatric hospitals is $845.

"The longer we stay on campus, the more expensive it is to use those services," Kornrumpf said. "We can run a good program but it's not what it could be. These new facilities are state-of-the-art acute care hospitals. It's the best thing for our patients."

What To Read Next
Get Local