Patients to be moved to new Eastern State Hospital at Coldstream next week

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Gov. Steve Beshear and state and local officials celebrated the opening Wednesday of the $129 million Eastern State Hospital after seven years of planning and three years of construction.

The 300,000-square-foot hospital will replace the old Eastern State Hospital, which was built in 1824 and is the second-oldest psychiatric facility in the country.

Beshear, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the University of Kentucky Coldstream Research Campus, said the state-of-the-art facility represented a new direction for mental health treatment in Kentucky.

"It's modern in looks, and it's going to be modern in services," Beshear said.

The state will move 140 patients from the old Eastern State Hospital at Fourth Street and Newtown Pike to Coldstream on Sept. 10.

Construction began in September 2010. The new complex, which will have 239 beds, includes a new neuro-behavioral unit for patients with acquired brain injuries and a long-term-care unit. The hospital also provides inpatient psychiatric treatment and acute inpatient behavioral health treatment.

The brain injury unit — the first of its kind in Kentucky — and the long-term care unit will open in 2014.

In addition to the hospital, the new campus includes three personal-care homes, which will have 16 beds each. The homes will provide less acute care for patients leaving the hospital who still need support.

Dr. Allen Brenzel, clinical director for the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health and Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, said during a tour of the campus that the space is designed to encourage recovery from mental illness.

"Recovery is a philosophy of care not just a place," Brenzel said.

The hospital also has a gym and meeting space that the public can use, Brenzel said. By being more welcoming, the hospital hopes to further destigmatize mental illness.

"We want to bring the community into the hospital," Brenzel said.

Kelly Gunning, co-director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said she dreaded taking family members to the old Eastern State Hospital. The campus was unwelcoming and antiquated, she said Wednesday. A 2007 Herald-Leader article showed that some buildings on the campus had multiple safety issues including asbestos, lead paint and inadequate fire protection systems.

"It stands for the past where people were sometimes treated in less than humane ways," Gunning said. "Everyone will feel confident and more at ease with bringing a family member here," Gunning said. "It means the world to us. We've worked seven and a half years to see this project come to fruition."

Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, helped broker the 2008 deal between state and local leaders and university officials that led to the building of the new hospital.

It's been a long road, Lee said.

"I cannot put into words what this facility means to me and what the support services offered here will mean for literally thousands of our citizens needing mental health care."

A deal involving the city, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, UK and the state allowed for a land swap and the building of the new hospital. As part of the deal, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, which has experienced rapid growth, will take over the Fourth Street campus of the former Eastern State Hospital. UK will inherit Bluegrass Community and Technical College space on Cooper Drive on UK's campus.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College has completed one building on the Fourth and Newtown Pike campus. Some students began classes at the new building this fall.

BCTC will begin renovations of some buildings on the Fourth Street campus after the hospital moves out next week. A police training facility will also be included.

College officials have said they plan to ask the state for an additional $100 million for the second phase of construction for the campus.

UK will manage the hospital for $43 million a year. It has not yet named a director. Kristi Lopez, a spokeswoman for UK, said the search is ongoing.

UK has named John Phillips as interim chief administrative officer.

Eastern State Hospital serves an average of 2,000 patients a year annually from 80 Kentucky counties.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205.Twitter:@HLCityhall

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