Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration is delaying construction of a new state psychiatric hospital in Michigan's Thumb region, citing concerns such as an inability to staff the facility.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced the pause on March 13. It says the current hospital in Caro has staffing shortages, and psychiatrists from other state hospitals have been pulled in.
Caro’s City Manager Michael Silverman said he was extremely surprised and disappointed to hear the news.
“This is vital to our community’s well-being and I think it’s vital to the state’s as well. This is a region that does not have a lot of mental health services and keeping this facility here will help a lot of our citizens,” Silverman said. “It’s essential that we provide services the citizens in the thumb area and also for economic development purposes.”
The state says it has been tough finding a safe water source at an acceptable cost, and just 30 percent of the 86 patients have family within 75 miles.
DHHS Director Robert Gordon says the agency will ask an outside consultant to review the project.
Republican Rep. Phil Green of Millington says the Whitmer administration's decision is "devastating to our community," saying he is "disgusted at the blatant disregard" for Thumb residents.
"The three reasons they gave were very, very weak and lame reasons," Green said.
Green said the state already appropriated money to hire staff and a chief psychiatrist. He said the other problems had solutions too.
"The issue with the water has been taken care of at a cost one-third of how the state wanted us to do it," Green said.
Green said the new hospital would provide Tuscola County with at least 200 new jobs. Not only will this hold affect those job opportunities, but opportunities for patients to get help.
"There is a waiting list for people to get into mental health beds in hospitals," Green said. "These are real people in Michigan that need help and because of politics, they're going to end up not having that help be available for another year."
The state will continue operating the current mental health facility on the campus. As for the $115 million project, they are going to be reviewing it and talking to consultants.
On March 20, State Senator Kevin Daley and Green invited Whitmer and her administration to join them in Caro to learn more about the importance of the hospital.
“We hope that the governor will find the time to see firsthand the importance of the Caro Center project,” Daley said. “We are confident that she will be able to see just how important this hospital is — not only to the patients, staff, and residents of Caro, but also to the entire mid-Michigan community.”