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Hospital handles House hurdle

Earlier this spring, a psychiatric care group revised its original plans to bring a 144-bed facility to Woodbury, partly in response to criticism from other psychiatric groups.

Those revisions paid off as the Minnesota House voted 125-8 on May 7 to approve Prairie St. John's revamped proposal to build a 66-bed facility geared for children and adolescents.

Rep. Marsha Swails, DFL-Woodbury, authored the bill and said she's excited to see the facility is able to take a big step forward.

"This is going to be a win-win for everybody," said Swails, who helped facilitate meetings between Prairie St. John's officials and representatives from Health East earlier this spring to come up with a proposal that will have the proposed facility focus on mental health care for youth.

"Every day since we've been discussing this topic in the House, we've had a report that there are no (mental health) beds for children in the Twin Cities," Swails said.

"I've talked to parents whose children who are shipped out of the state because there isn't enough care here in the Twin Cities. They were excited to see this have such overwhelming support in the House," she added.

The proposed facility needs approval in the Legislature because of a moratorium the state has on construction of new hospitals.

Senate support?

The next hurdle for the youth psych hospital is the state Senate, which Prairie St. John's officials said they are optimistic will take up the issue before the legislative session ends.

"It might be a little tougher to get the momentum going, but I absolutely believe that the Senate will recognize the severe shortage of psychiatric beds we have for children in the Twin Cities," said John Ryan, special projects liaison for Prairie St. John's.

Prairie St. John's co-founder Dr. Stephen Setterberg said the facility would fill a tremendous need for the psychiatric community and for youth suffering with menal illness and drug addiction.

"We realized Minnesota needed more beds when we saw so many Twin Cities patients traveling over 200 miles to be hospitalized in our Fargo, ND facility," said Setterberg. "The Minnesota Department of Health confirms that over one in 10 children must travel outside the Twin Cities for psychiatric hospitalization, not counting those who simply don't get the hospital care they need."

The city of Woodbury has expressed its public support for the facility, which is planned to be built near Woodwinds Hospital in the city's recently formed medical campus district.

Some of the concerns about the original Prairie St. John's proposal came from the state Health Department which said the 144-bed proposal was not in the public's best interest. Health organizations like HealthEast and Fairview opposed the earlier plans, but HealthEast expressed support for the revised plan. Woodwinds is a HealthEast hospital.

Ryan said if the Senate votes in favor of the proposal, construction crews could break ground on the facility early this summer.