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Columbia Missourian

New psychiatric center set to open Wednesday at MU

By Dariya Tsyrenzhapova
July 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Psychiatric Center is scheduled to open Wednesday under MU Health Care ownership to replace the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center, which provided its services for about 40 years. 

Unlike its predecessor, the Missouri Psychiatric Center will function as part of MU Health Care and not as a separate entity.

Joe Parks, director of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Services division of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said this will allow people with severe mental illness to receive medical care that is better integrated with their mental health care. This goal is consistent with the Development of Mental Health Strategic Plan approved by the department.

Parks said University Hospital and Mental Health Center staff worked together to make the transition as seamless as possible.

“It was a hard thing to do, but they did a great job,” Parks said.

John Lauriello, the center’s new director, said he hopes to bring the facility more state and national name recognition.

“It’s really a closure of one hospital and opening another,” he said.

Lauriello said his previous professional experience as director of a psychiatric center at the University of New Mexico gave him the skills and ideas needed to accomplish this goal.

“That’s the reason I came,” he said.

Under MU Health Care ownership, the Missouri Psychiatric Center will be more of a university-oriented practice as opposed to a state facility. Providing student training will be one of the center’s main missions, Lauriello said.

“We want to make an environment where we are teaching all different disciplines,” Lauriello said.

Lauriello said having an opportunity to train students and provide mental health care services at the same time is a great way to give care.

“It constantly keeps you thinking about the best way to treat people,” he said. “It’s a model that can really work."

The new center will operate at the same location and will provide 55 beds, the same as before, to meet the needs of its child and adult patients. Lauriello also said the majority of the staff was rehired from the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center.

“I think people are very loyal to this institution, and they wanted to stay,” Lauriello said.

As of Monday, 150 of 181 employees were hired from the previous staff, according to an e-mail from Mary Jenkins, MU Health Care spokeswoman.

Lauriello said he hopes to finalize the hiring process as soon as possible. The facility will start operating with its full staff of 224 employees by the end of July, he said.

“We are able to open tomorrow with the staff as if the transition was seemless,” Lauriello said. “I want the patients (to) not have noticed the difference.”