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Consultant recommends scaling back Caro Center while city official wants to 'stick to the plan'

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

State health department officials say the state of Michigan should keep a psychiatric center in the Thumb open, but scrap plans for a major expansion.

The Caro Center has been operating for more than a century in Tuscola County. Hundreds of people are employed at the center which provides psychiatric care to dozens of patients in a collection of aging buildings.

In 2018, state and local officials, including former Gov. Rick Snyder, broke ground for a new $115 million dollar facility. The state legislature authorized financing to construct a new hospital on the Caro site in 2017. The new Caro Psychiatric Hospital was scheduled to be completed in 2021 and serve 200 adults, an increase of 50 beds from the existing facility.

But the Whitmer administration stopped construction this spring, citing concerns aboutstaffing and accessibilityfor patients’ families.  

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) hired the consulting firm Myers and Stauffer to review the project.  

A consultant hired by the state now says the Caro Center should remain open, but also recommends decreasing the number of patients it can serve, from 150 to 84. The consultant suggested the Caro Center could either be modernized or some new construction could help with its reduced patient load. 

The report recommends adding psychiatric beds at other existing hospitals in Michigan and expanding community-based programs to improve access to mental health services.

“These recommendations will sustain and strengthen the Caro community’s historic role in providing psychiatric care,” said MDHHS director Robert Gordon. “The recommendations will achieve their results at significantly lower cost than the legislature previously anticipated, allowing for additional investment in other urgent health priorities.”

Many in Tuscola County were counting on the original plan to expand the Caro Center.   The psychiatric facility is a major employer in the county. Hundreds of Caro residents, center employees and patients' family members attended a public meeting last month to voice their support for Caro Center. 

Michael Silverman is Caro’s city manager. He’s not giving up.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have more meetings with the governor’s administration to convince them to stick to the plan of having 200 beds at the facility and building the, as promised, $115 million facility,” says Silverman.

The MDHHS' recommendations must be approved by the Legislature.

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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