Officials break ground on $211 million Fulton State Hospital

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FULTON - Gov. Jay Nixon, along with local officials, broke ground Wednesday on new facilities for the Fulton State Psychiatric Hospital. The current hospital is the oldest state psychiatric facility west of the Mississippi River and home to Missouri's only maximum-security psychiatric facility. 

The hospital, built in 1851, has long been in disrepair and the governor has made previous attempts to secure funding to rebuild. 

The project is expected to cost $211 million and is set to be completed by December 2017, according to the governor's office.

Nixon said he is "comfortable" with how he approached the rebuild, rebuffing criticism over the fact that there was no public vote on the matter. Republican leaders have debated how the facility should be paid for, but did agree the renovation was necessary.

"An investment of this nature was vital to get done," Nixon said. "It's been here since 1851, and it's going to be here for another 100 years and making sure that we have a facility that matches that, within the constraints of our budget, was important to do."

Nixon told the audience during the groundbreaking the state has a moral obligation to provide high quality health care to Missourians. He called the new facility a "game-changer for those suffering with severe mental illness." 

Nixon also said the state expects the construction project to bring Fulton and Callaway County around 2,500 new jobs. 

Marty Martin-Forman, a 35-year veteran employee of Fulton State Hospital, who now serves as its chief operating officer, said the new hospital will benefit both patients and workers. She said patients will have the opportunity to continue their recovery in a state-of-the-art facility that uses natural light, has short hallways, individual bedrooms and more areas to provide counseling, therapy and group work. 

Martin-Forman said hospital staff will be able to work in a considerably safer environment. 

"The maximum security building, Biggs, was built back in 1935, when the treatment of mental illness was keeping people safe and controlling their behavior, rather than treating it," Martin-Forman said. "You'll find very long hallways, you'll find bedrooms that are a long way away from where staff can safely intervene if there's an issue." 

Martin-Forman said a new hospital will take a great burden off of staff who spend a great deal of time fixing the dilapidated hospital. 

"I look forward to the day when staff don't have to make do with what they have," Martin-Forman said. "But can come into work, feel safe and be able to do what they need to do without worrying about what's going to be broken today, or what do we need to repair, or what do we need to paint."

Martin-Forman said the hospital is Callaway County's largest employer and the area has been supportive of its mission. She said it is common for families to work together at the hospital.

"We have families who work here, grandparents, parents, and children who then come here," Martin-Forman said. "They understand the nature of the business."

For more information on the Fulton State Hospital rebuild, visit the state's dedicated website

Below is a diagram of what the new hospital site would look like.

Diagram of the new Fulton State Hospital complex