State Sen. Mike Green said state officials’ silence on where they might build a new state psychiatric hospital – if they decide to replace the Caro Center – is “very disappointing to me.”
“I think it’s terribly offensive that they just want to move it – if that’s what they want to do – and not even with a good reason,” Green told the Caro Rotary Club on Monday afternoon.
Replacement of the Caro Center, 2000 Chambers Road in Tuscola County’s Indianfields Township, was identified in Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget for 2018.
That budget, however, didn’t include “any details about where that facility would be located,” said Angela Minicuci, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that oversees Michigan’s five state psychiatric hospitals including the Caro Center.
Green said he and state Rep. Edward “Ned” Canfield (R-Sebewaing) will meet with Snyder following the Easter holiday and question the governor about the location of a new state psychiatric hospital.
“They’re not making a decision, but they’re also not saying that it’s going to be in Caro, which is very disappointing to me,” Green told the audience.
Tuscola County officials have urged hundreds of local elected leaders and government employees to send letters or email to Gov. Rick Snyder and state legislators – including Green – to try to save 360 jobs that would be lost if the state replaces the Caro Center with a new state psychiatric hospital somewhere else.
Following the meeting, when asked the odds of a new state psychiatric hospital being built in Caro, Green said “I can’t predict.”
Minicuci said state legislators, along with DHHS officials, could determine the location of the new state psychiatric hospital in the coming weeks.
“It could be written into the boilerplate of the budget, if those legislators so determine that they want to decide where the new facility will be,” Minicuci said.
State legislators “may very well leave it up to the (DHHS) to decide, but it’s just a matter of whether or not they approve it, and what type of details they put in the final approved budget,” Minicuci said.
Caro Center’s history dates to May 30, 1914, when it was founded as the Michigan Farm Colony for Epileptics at Wahjamega. Dozens of buildings now sit on 650 acres of state-owned land that is the site of the Caro Center.
But 20 of the buildings “can’t be used just because they’re not in the appropriate shape or they don’t meet the current (Americans with Disabilities Act) or The Joint Commission standards for being able to serve people who are mentally ill,” Minicuci said.
“It’s just not an appropriate facility to be providing behavioral health care,” Minicuci said.
Green said he and Canfield are “doing everything we can to make sure that it stays in Caro.”
Canfield is the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “That’s very helpful, too,” Green said. “So we’ll do what we can.”
Documents circulated by area residents lobbying legislators to keep a state psychiatric facility in the Caro area note that Caro Center has successfully operated here for more than 100 years. The Caro Center also is “accepted in the community,” according to documents, noting that’s “not likely to be the case with a different location.”
Caro Center also is “buffered with woodlots from almost all residential development,” according to the documents.
Tuscola County Controller/Administrator Michael R. Hoagland has written that “if the state builds a facility in a different part of the state there will be major negative economic impacts to businesses, schools and all people living in our communities.”
Writers may email Snyder at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Green’s email address is: email@example.com. Writers may email Canfield at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minicuci said it’s a good idea for those who want to keep a state psychiatric facility near Caro to write or contact state legislators.
“That’s exactly where the conversation is happening right now,” said Minicuci, noting state DHHS leaders are contacting those legislators as well.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing, so having (Thumb-area residents’) input in that process is a really important part of the decision that the legislators will make on whether or not they approve this in our budget, and what detail they put in that budget approval,” Minicuci said.
About 200 people are on a waiting list to receive treatment at a state psychiatric hospital, Minicuci said. About 150 patients reside at Caro Center.
If it’s up to DHHS officials to choose the site of the new psychiatric facility, those officials will examine the hometowns of the individuals on the waiting list, and of those currently residing at Caro Center, in deciding where to construct a new facility, Minicuci said.
“It’s not just about the patients themselves, but about the patients’ families, and where their home families would be based,” Minicuci said.
“For us, that’s the goal. If we’re going to be building a new facility that’s going to best serve patients, our goal is to make sure that it does indeed serve the patients. It’s not only looking at the current population, but looking at the potential expansion of the population, and then making sure that they have the appropriate access to care.”
Minicuci said the state owns enough land to build a new state psychiatric hospital at or near the current site of the Caro Center, adding that “if the Legislature wanted to build the new facility at that site, we could do that … just given the size of the current acreage that is owned by the state.”