State halts $115 million Caro Psychiatric Hospital construction project

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CARO (WJRT) (3/13/2019) - A $115 million project to rebuild the Caro Psychiatric Hospital with a larger facility is on hold due to a few delays.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the decision Wednesday to put the project on hold, months after former Gov. Rick Snyder took part in a ceremonial groundbreaking last October.

State officials cite issues with recruiting staff, placing patients in a rural area too far from their families and an ongoing local government dispute over providing municipal water for the hospital.

A consultant has been hired to take a fresh look at the project and recommend next steps for the Department of Health and Human Service.

The new 225,000 square foot Caro Psychiatric Hospital will replace a facility that has been in operation since 1914. The Michigan Legislature approved funding for the project in 2017.

RELATED: Ground broken at new Caro Psychiatric Hospital

The new facility will go up along the Cass River just across the street from the current hospital. It is designed to serve 200 adults, which is an increase of about 50 beds over its current capacity.

State officials point out the project is facing challenges:
-- The hospital already is having trouble recruiting staff to the facility, including the lack of a permanent psychiatrist. Doctors from other state hospitals are being called in to help.

-- Caro's rural location makes it difficult to engage the community and allow patients' families to visit. Only 30 percent of the current patients at the hospital now have family within 75 miles of Caro. Doctors say family and community engagement are key to providing patients with psychological stability.

-- An ongoing dispute over providing water to the site could lead to a nearly $2.5 million additional cost. The existing hospital already has municipal sewer, but the state wants to hook up to water service as well, which has been estimated to cost $2 million to $3 million. However, ndianfields Township, Caro and Tuscola County said they don't have the money to foot the bill.

“Based on these issues, we have decided to seek outside consultation to review the proposed Caro Center project to determine what is in the best interest of Michiganders who need critical state hospital services,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon.

He expects a recommendation on how to move forward with the project to come by the end of June.

State Sen. Kevin Daley, a Republican from Lapeer County, plans to fight for keeping the project in Caro. He pointed out the state already has invested $3 million in the project and local residents depend on the hospital for work.

“The Caro Center is the second largest employer in Tuscola County and I am committed to working hard to making sure that this project is completed," Daley said. "There is too much at stake for the community.”