MDH approves plan for mental health hospital in St. Paul, despite concerns

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has given the OK to a plan to turn the former Bethesda Hospital site in St. Paul into a mental health hospital, despite having "significant concerns" about the facility as it's proposed. 

In a news release on Monday, MDH found it is within the "public interest" to move forward with the proposed mental health hospital. Fairview Health Services and Acadia Healthcare have teamed up to finance and operate the facility, which is licensed for 144 inpatient beds at the former Bethesda Hospital site in St. Paul. 

"The public review of this proposal shows how much need there is for additional mental health beds in Minnesota," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. "As we seek to address the acute shortage we are facing, we hope this review highlights the need for policymakers, health care organizations, mental health care providers, employers and insurers, and patients to work on solutions to fully meet the state’s mental health needs."

MDH said this project is in the public interest because it provides more inpatient mental health beds when there is a lack of beds in the state. However, MDH said this facility will not replace the comprehensive services St. Joseph's Hospital provided before Fairview closed it in July, such as lacking an emergency department and not offering a full complement of medical care – it will only serve a subset of mental health patients. MDH also says the facility will operate under a "leaner staffing model than is the norm nationally and in Minnesota."

Similar concerns were raised in public comments about the proposal.

Meanwhile, MDH says the Minnesota Legislature expects "close, ongoing scrutiny of how the new facility will impact care delivery and the economics of inpatient mental health services in the community," adding MDH had been direct to "monitor patient and payer mix, transfers and patient flow for inpatient mental health care in the state."