News 9 - March 29, 2024 6:05 am

State and local leaders broke ceremonial ground on the state’s Donahue Behavioral Health Hospital.

Costs for the project have ballooned in recent months from inflation, but State Sen. Roger Thompson said the latest estimates are slightly north of $150 million. “We do not want to cut down on the scope of the project at all because the need is there,” he said.

The state legislature appropriated $87 million in ARPA funds for the project, with Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City, and several private foundations also making contributions. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse will use the money from selling the current Griffin Memorial Mental Health Hospital land to help fund its replacement.

Newly appointed ODMHSS commissioner, Allie Friesen, hopes the new facility might open as early as 2026. “There are of course barriers to construction and inflationary costs and all those things to consider,” Friesen said. “But, we are going to be diligent and vigilant in making sure we open the doors as soon as we can, but in a high quality and safe manner.”

The new facility is expected to make a noticeable difference in the number of patients treated. The current hospital in Norman has beds for 120 people, and the new hospital in Oklahoma City will have 330. “It’ll be much more accessible for police officers and other public safety officials who are looking for a place to put someone who needs this type of treatment,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt.

Elected officials representing Norman voiced opposition after plans were announced last fall. Among their concerns were questions regarding the employment status of people currently working at the facility in Norman. But, ODMHSS said each employee will be offered a position at the new facility. “It is a transplant of those services that exist and that includes every single employee that we have,” Friesen said.

Located on the Oklahoma City OSU campus, department leaders hope it can work with the university to prepare students for specific needs in the mental health workforce and provide them with clinical experience.



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