New state psychiatric hospital to be built in Caro

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CARO (WJRT) - UPDATE: (06/20/17) - Hundreds of jobs will remain and another 150 will be added in Tuscola County.

There was bit of tug-of-war going on when it came to building the state's new psychiatric hospital - build it in Caro, where an existing, but aging hospital sits, or build it in northern Michigan.

Tuscola County's second largest employer will remain where it was, as the state has decided to build the new Caro Center in Caro.

“It's a win-win for everybody,” said State Senator Mike Green.

About 360 jobs will remain in Tuscola County and another 150 will be added after Governor Rick Snyder and the Department of Health and Human Services decided the state's new $115 million psychiatric hospital will be built in Caro. The Caro Center is more than 100 years old and many of the buildings on the site have been closed because of poor conditions.

"The buildings where the clients live right now are in bad shape and the governor, I heard him say, over and over, and over, why he wasn't told how bad they were a long time ago,” Green said.

Once the state announced plans were in the works for a new hospital, northern Michigan legislators wanted it built in Gaylord, or Clare, somewhere closer to their constituents. Tuscola County leaders fought back, pressing Lansing to keep the hospital in the Thumb area.

“The community played a big role in keeping this, they sent letters,” Green said.

Green says a psychiatric hospital will also open in northern Michigan, possibly through the renovation of an existing hospital. It's not clear when construction will begin on the new facility in Tuscola County.

While the decision has been made to build new in Caro, Green hates to think what would have happened to Tuscola County and the Thumb area if those jobs would have left.

“I don't want use the term ‘devastating’, because we can recover and we will, we would have, but it really would have hurt us, so it's exciting that it's coming back,” he said.


UPDATE: (06/16/17) - Tuscola County will be the site of a new state psychiatric hospital.

The county is home to the Caro Center, but when the state proposed building a new hospital to replace it, northern Michigan legislators wanted it built in their area.

Sources close to the decision-making process say the new hospital will be built in Caro.

The site location is expected to be announced soon by Governor Rick Snyder.

The budget that was proposed earlier this year included $115 million to build a new state psychiatric hospital to replace the aging Caro Center, but the Department of Health and Human Services, nor the Governor, would say where it would be built.

It was a month ago when Tuscola County leaders held a press conference to present the facts on why they believed it should be built in Caro.

Proponents of building the facility further north want to make it easier for patients and families living there, but Caro leaders says most of the patients at the Caro Center are from the southern part of the state.

The Caro Center is the county's second largest employer, second only to the county itself.


(05/19/17) - Tuscola County leaders say it would be devastating to the area if the state decides to build a psychiatric hospital somewhere other than Caro.

The county is home to one of the state's five psychiatric hospitals and it’s lobbying to have the new hospital built there, but some people want that new hospital in another location.

Friday, Tuscola County government, business, school and economic development leaders gathered in Caro to say the new hospital should be built in the Caro area.

“We need to catch a break here, we need a little bit of help in this part of the state,” said Tuscola County administrator Michael Hoagland.

The Caro Center has existed for more than 100 years and is the county's second leading employer, surpassed only by the county itself. If the state decides to build elsewhere, 349 jobs will be lost.

Right now, it's estimated the Caro Center brings in $54 million to the regional economy.

“As I said, a rural distressed area, hopefully they will factor in the impact if they move this, it would be dramatic,” Hoagland said.

Governor Rick Snyder has recommended funding of $115 million to replace the Caro Center, but the state has been reluctant to say where the new center will be built. The natural choice would seem to be Caro, where infrastructure and employees are already in place, but some legislators want it built in a more central location, perhaps Gaylord.

“We are told the state budget would not be finalized until a new site for this facility is chosen,” Hoagland said.

The county is pulling out all the stops to have the hospital built in Caro, including calls to the Governor and other state legislators, and doing an economic impact study on what the center means financially to Tuscola County.

Proponents of building the facility farther north want to make it easier for patients and families living there, but Ryan Piche, Caro city manager, says most of the patients at the Caro Center are from the southern part of the state.

“If you take the eight hours for four people or five people, and then take a hundred people and add three hours to their trip, I think the math works out in our favor quickly,” he said.

County representatives are meeting with Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon Monday to present their case that Caro is the right choice.

A decision on where to build the new hospital could come in the next two weeks.

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