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Staffing, location concerns halt plans for new $115 million Caro Center

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is re-examining plans for a multi-million dollar psychiatric hospital in Michigan's Thumb region.

For more than 100 years, the Caro Center has been treating Michiganders with serious medical conditions.  Starting in 1914, the center provided treatment for people with epilepsy. The focus shifted to patients with psychiatric disorders in the 1950s.

The center is located about 30 miles east of Saginaw. Its isolation, aging infrastructure, and changes in medicine have threatened its future.  

In 2017,state lawmakers approved spending $115 million on a new psychiatric hospital in Caro. The 225,000 square-foot facility would expand the number of beds at the center from 150 to 200. 

Last fall, former Gov. Rick Snyder joined other dignitaries in breaking ground for the project, with expectations for construction to begin in this spring and with the new center opening in 2021.

But now, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has decided to delay the project. The department cites several reasons, including staff shortages. For example, there is not currently an active permanent psychiatrist on staff at Caro.

The Caro Center’s location is another issue. MDHHS notes the center’s location, about 30 miles east of Saginaw, creates challenges for patients and their families, with only 30 percent of the current 86 patients living within 75 miles of Caro. 

“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,” says Robert Gordon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director.

The outside consultant’s report on the project is expected by June.

The Caro Center is a major employer in the area. At last October's groundbreaking, the city's mayor expressed relief at the decision to expand the facility.

“I know everyone involved realized the nightmare it would have been if the Caro Center closed down for this area,” Mayor Joe Greene told those at the event. “Closing the Caro Center would have caused economic disaster for this area of the Thumb.” 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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