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Psychiatric hospital wants expansion

Published (5/6/2011)
By Hank Long
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The recently opened PrairieCare children’s and adolescent psychiatric hospital wants to expand its 20-bed facility. It needs legislative approval because of an existing moratorium on construction of new hospitals.

Sponsored by House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove), HF1018 would amend an existing moratorium exception that first allowed construction of the 20-bed hospital, by adding that the permitted project includes expansion for the hospital for up to 50 beds.

The bill states that no further public interest review by the Department of Health is necessary to grant the exception. The bill was approved by the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee and sent to the House Ways and Means Committee. Its companion, SF742, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), awaits action by the full Senate.

Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Cloud) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he believes the exception granting bed expansion for inpatient mental health facilities doesn’t address the root of the problem.

“Too many times we focus on the inpatient market,” Hosch said. “We should be looking at more outpatient services that aren’t as expensive and help prevent the need for inpatient services.”

The hospital moratorium has been in existence since the early 1980s. It was enacted to prevent overbuilding hospital facilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Since that time, the Legislature has granted 24 exceptions, including in 2009 to add the 20-bed PrairieCare children and adolescent psychiatric inpatient facility.

Sue Abderholden, executive director for NAMI Minnesota, said the organization supports the bill, but stressed that if the Legislature reduces mental health grants for children, a measure currently contained in proposed Senate legislation, the need for more inpatient beds will continue to increase.

Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Faribault) cited the story of one of her constituents whose child was recently admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Montana because of a bed capacity shortage in Minnesota.

“We do not need to be sending our kids to Montana,” she said.

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