Nixon to outline plan for new mental hospital

Monday, December 9, 2013 | 3:17 p.m. CST

FULTON — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was preparing to outline a plan Monday for a new mental health hospital that would replace the state's maximum and intermediate security psychiatric facility.

The Fulton State Hospital admitted its first patients in 1851, and Nixon said this summer it needs to be improved for the safety of staff and the health of its patients, who include those committed by the courts for evaluation and treatment. The hospital also is the statewide treatment facility for people who have been found not guilty or unable to stand trial because of mental disease.

Nixon scheduled an announcement Monday afternoon during a visit to the Fulton State Hospital.

Missouri's budget that took effect in July includes $13 million to design a new hospital. Nixon initially froze the money while citing fears the Republican-led legislature would override his veto of an income tax cut. After the veto override attempt fell short, the governor released $2 million.

The hospital is about 30 miles northeast of the state Capitol and has more than three dozen buildings — including some that now are vacant. Among those housing patients is the maximum security Biggs Forensic Center, the intermediate security Guhleman Forensic Center and the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services. Mental health officials previously have proposed demolishing Biggs, an aged dietary building and some empty structures and constructing a new 300-bed high-security facility to house patients from Biggs and Guhleman. That also would free beds needed for the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services. It was estimated to cost $211 million.

The oldest portion of Biggs was constructed in 1937. Patient wards include a room with tables with a long hallway extending back and leading to the patient rooms and to the bathroom. Officials cite point to poor sightlines and hallways narrows while echoes and an environment with significant stimulation can contribute to patients becoming agitated.

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