CARO (WJRT) - (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.