In a press conference Monday at Fulton State Hospital's Administration Building, Gov. Jay Nixon announced his proposal to build a new high-security psychiatric facility at the aging Biggs and Guhleman forensic centers.
Nixon stated on Monday that he had released the remaining $11 million withheld earlier this year to complete the planning and design process, and his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 "will recommend moving forward with the strategic bond issuance that will make the resources available for this long-overdue project (to) finally get underway."
"Anyone who walks these grounds or through the halls of the Biggs Forensic Center as we did this past July can see that the facilities here are aging and in serious need of repair," Nixon said. "It's wards are cramped ... and deteriorating, leading to injuries among staff and patients. Based on worker's comp costs, it's far more dangerous to work here in Fulton than any Department of Corrections facility - that's unacceptable and it's time to fix it."
Fulton State Hospital Chief Operating Officer Marty Martin-Forman said the hospital is "incredibly excited and grateful for what has seemed like a very long journey" in the governor's announcement.
"We are very much looking forward to providing treatment in a modern psychiatric facility," Martin-Forman said. "Although we know it's a ways away, this is the first step. This had to happen and it feels really good."
In June, Nixon withheld about $401 million in state funds and capital improvements projects, including $13 million earmarked for planning and designing new facilities for the aging hospital, in response to an attempted veto override on a bill that would have cut taxes and "undermine(d) our fiscal foundation now and for years to come," Nixon explained.
After the veto was sustained during the state legislature's annual veto session in September, Nixon released the first $2 million in withheld funds to the hospital's planning stage. The remaining $11 million was announced Monday.
According to commissioned studies, the cost of the project, including planning and design, is about $211 million. Nixon said the remaining $200 million would come through appropriation bonds that would not require public vote.