The North Dakota State Hospital would get a new building in Jamestown with the old campus repurposed as a minimum-custody correctional facility for men, according to Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive budget released Wednesday.
The budget proposal provides the Department of Human Services with $35 million from Legacy Fund earnings to build an 80-bed Behavioral Health State Hospital, clinic, social service center and boiler building. The 58,600-square-foot hospital would be built in an area west of the current State Hospital campus on state-owned land across 12th Avenue Southeast.
“There is a lot of good stuff around behavioral health in this budget,” said Thomas Eide, director of field services for the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
A 30,000-square-foot building would be built with the hospital to house the South Central Human Service Center that would be relocated from its current Jamestown campus. Another $1.93 million for a gas boiler building to be built would come from the state Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund.
The governor’s budget shows no increase in full-time positions with the new hospital request. A single facility with concentrated staff and shared services could operate with 15 to 20 fewer staff to serve 80 clients, Eide said.
There should not be any real impact on the current staff strength, he said. An 80-bed facility would have roughly around 300 staff, he said.
If the budget is approved, the goal would be to have the buildings constructed and moving in around the start of the next biennium, he said.
Rosalee Etherington, State Hospital superintendent, said the new hospital would have a greater therapeutic environment with more natural light and green space than the older buildings dating back to the hospital founding in 1885 as the only state facility for the chronically mentally ill.
A 40-year deinstitutionalization process fueled by the onset of antipsychotic medications and a priority to treat patients in community-based health settings whenever possible has reduced the need for bed space, she said. A new setting would be more conducive to treatment outcomes in a space designed to reduce threats to staff and patient safety, she said.
“The advantage of course is the separation of our campus from the prison campus to capitalize with that environment,” Etherington said.
Having the hospital, outpatient clinic and social services on one campus allows services to continue without disruption to clients who work with various agencies, she said.
The budget would also provide $562,500 to replace the roof on the Gronewald/Middleton building, which houses the sex offender treatment and assessment units at the State Hospital. The building would remain in operation.
Most of the State Hospital buildings would be converted to a minimum security prison for men to be relocated from the Missouri River Correctional Center near Bismarck, according to the budget. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would then close the leased women’s correctional facility in New England and move the inmates to MRCC to save at least $7 million per biennium.
Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, missed the governor’s budget address to represent North Dakota at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington, D.C. The State Hospital is in the state’s constitution and any plan needs to maintain that mission for the entire state without impact to services, he said.
“I will talk to the caucus members and see where there is support or if we should oppose anything,” Grabinger said.
Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, said he supports discussion of long overdue improvements to address overcrowding of units or to improve services at the State Hospital. The prison closure in New England would impact that community but the decision means Jamestown has the appropriate facility, he said.
“This would be good for Jamestown,” Grueneich said. “I am glad the discussion has started.”