Dayton bonding includes youth psychiatric hospital in Willmar
WILLMAR -- Money to build a new psychiatric hospital for youth in Willmar is included in Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed bonding bill. If approved, the $7.5 million allocation would be used to build a new 16-bed facility in Willmar to replace the one...
WILLMAR - Money to build a new psychiatric hospital for youth in Willmar is included in Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed bonding bill.
If approved, the $7.5 million allocation would be used to build a new 16-bed facility in Willmar to replace the one currently in operation on the MinnWest Technology Campus.
In the past, Dayton had proposed closing the Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services program, which is the only one of its kind in the state, and transferring the clients and jobs elsewhere.
In a conference call Wednesday with reporters about his 2018 bonding bill proposal, the Democratic governor said keeping the mental health facility for youth open in Willmar was a "top priority" of Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar.
By working with Baker and Health and Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper, Dayton said a decision was made to build a new facility here instead of closing it.
Baker said he was "very happy" to hear the hospital was included in Dayton's bonding bill and "grateful" Dayton now recognizes the value of the facility and its staff is to the state.
Dayton said the current facility is inadequate and if funding is approved, construction of a new hospital would "preserve the jobs" in Willmar and provide an improved facility for youth that need residential crisis care and intensive psychiatric treatment.
A synopsis of the project included in Dayton's proposal said because many patients are physically aggressive and have needs that exceed the capacity of other providers, it is "difficult to protect patient and staff safety" at the current facility.
Building a new hospital would improve safety and provide better care to Minnesota children who use the services, Dayton said.
It has been difficult to recruit enough psychiatrists to meet the needs in Willmar, but Dayton said having a new facility could help attract "high-quality" professionals to the area.
Dayton listed several other Willmar projects in his proposal, including $1 million for facility improvements at Ridgewater College and $800,000 in military affairs asset preservation at the National Guard Armory.
Regional projects include $3.5 million to help fund the final segment of flood prevention levee in Montevideo, $3 million for power generation improvements in Litchfield, $300,000 in facility improvements at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby and $1 million in facility improvements at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.
Dayton's $1.5 billion proposal is less than half of the $3.7 billion in submitted requests, but it may be much larger than what Republicans are willing to consider given that this is typically not a bonding year.
Baker, who had not had time Wednesday to review Dayton's proposals, said he does not understand why Dayton's proposal is $500,000 more than the failed proposal from last year, yet some local projects were apparently cut.
While pleased that funding for the children's mental health hospital was included, Baker said other local projects from the 2016 bonding bill - funding for state Highway 23 between New London and Paynesville and the Glacial Lakes State Trail by New London - were apparently not included this year in Dayton's proposal.
"We lost significant projects," Baker said, adding that he wants more "clarity" on what's included in Dayton's proposal.
Baker said he wants to pass a reasonable bonding bill but one that is less than what Dayton has proposed, especially during a year that is dedicated to passing a state budget bill.
Dayton said 2016 was the second time in 30 years that the Legislature failed to pass a bonding bill and said the "cost of not doing these projects is greater than doing them."
Dayton said 35 percent of the funds in his proposal is for projects in Greater Minnesota, 30 percent is for the metro area and another 35 percent would have a statewide impact.