Governer Fletcher Announces Agreement For Mental Health Facility

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today announced that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board have reached a $1 million agreement to cover planning and design for the new mental health facility that will replace aged Eastern State Hospital.

“This agreement will bring us substantially closer to realizing the goal of constructing a new, state-of-the-art Eastern State Hospital that will better serve Kentuckians,” said Governor Fletcher, speaking at a news conference on the grounds of the current facility in Lexington. “Our citizens with mental illness deserve the best treatment available, in the most modern setting we can provide. The state’s partnership with the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board ensures that this vision will become a reality.”

Bluegrass CEO Joe Toy applauded the agreement. “The Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board and all of our staff believe this important agreement will impact the lives of those we serve in many positive ways for years to come,” Toy said.

The agreement covers fiscal year 2008 and provides for the state and Bluegrass to work together on acquiring a site, planning and designing a new hospital and establishing a timeline for the project. Legal, legislative and funding issues related to replacing Eastern State Hospital also will be studied during this year.

Eastern State Hospital has existed in some form at its current location on South Fourth Street in Lexington since 1824. The facility has three primary treatment buildings – one built in the 1800s and two in the 1950s. It serves an average of 150 patients per day and has about 400 round-the-clock staff.

AP Story

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Advocates for the mentally ill applauded an agreement aimed at building a new facility to replace Eastern State Hospital, one of the nation's oldest psychiatric facilities.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Board - which operates Eastern State Hospital - signed the agreement Tuesday giving Bluegrass the money - $1 million - and authority to move ahead with plans for a new hospital.

If the General Assembly gives its approval, a new hospital could be completed in the next three years.

Kelly Gunning, executive director of the Lexington affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said she is optimistic that state legislators will back the plan.

"I don't think there's a humane person in Kentucky that believes that treatment should continue in that facility," Gunning said. "This will help build momentum. We couldn't be happier."

Over the years, Eastern State has been forced to close buildings or parts of buildings that were no longer safe or no longer used. A July report in the Lexington Herald-Leader about conditions at Eastern State found other problems, including asbestos, lead paint, exposed wiring and poor fire protection systems.

Joseph Toy, CEO and president of Bluegrass, said the $1 million will go toward employing an architect to finalize designs and getting estimates on construction and other costs, such as selling bonds for the project. Bluegrass took over day-to-day operations of Eastern State Hospital in 1995, but the buildings and the land are owned by the state.

The location, the final design and the details about funding will be ready come January, when the legislature reconvenes for the 2008 session and tackles the budget, Toy said.

Eastern State Hospital is the second-oldest psychiatric facility in the country with roots that trace back to the early 1800s. The last major renovation at Eastern State was in the 1980s.

--- Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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