OKC possible location for new state mental hospital

Oklahoma City officials on Tuesday approved $1 million in support of Griffin Memorial Hospital's move from Norman to Oklahoma City.  (file photo)

Oklahoma City officials on Tuesday approved $1 million in support of Griffin Memorial Hospital’s move from Norman to Oklahoma City. (file photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY — State mental health officials are looking to begin the planning and design phase of a $137 million mental health hospital next month, but first they must decide on the site.

A decision is near but depends on many moving parts, said Heath Hayes, director of communications and strategic engagement for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“Oklahoma City is a viable option at this point,” Hayes said Tuesday.

Lawmakers approved $87 million in pandemic recovery funds to build a facility to replace the outdated Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, with the stipulation that the new hospital be within 30 miles of the state capitol.

The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday to allocate $1 million of its own American Rescue Plan Act funds to the project if it is built in Oklahoma City.

“It’s something that’s been in the works for a long time. The Griffin Memorial Hospital facility is over 100 years old. It needs to be completely replaced,” said Aubrey McDermid, Assistant City Manager. “They have identified a location in Oklahoma City that they are targeting that has created a funding gap of about $10 million.”

Oklahoma County has also provided $1 million in ARPA funding for the plan, and several philanthropic groups have also contributed, McDermid said.

Hayes said the land is near Portland and Reno Avenues. It is owned by Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, which has agreed to assign it to the Department of Mental Health free of charge. However, it is estimated that $10 million would be needed to clear the property and make it ready for construction.

The mental health department owns 660 acres in Norman — valued at $50 million — that it plans to sell to fund new construction, Hayes said. The land is attractive to developers because it’s not designated for any specific use, he said.

The new 363,000-square-foot hospital will be designed with behavioral health needs in mind. It will increase the number of adult beds by 100 and bring in the 55 youth beds now at the Children’s Recovery Center in Norman, Hayes said.

The goal is to open the hospital with 330 beds in March 2026. A total of 553 jobs will be needed to operate, including 253 new jobs, he said.

“Certainly there are people in Norman who want it to stay there and people who see an opportunity to redevelop that space,” Hayes said.

The Oklahoma City location would give customers a more central location with better access to transportation, he said.

“This is an exciting opportunity for treatment options for the city,” said Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon, an advocate for more mental health services.

The state plans to break ground on another new mental health facility in Tulsa on March 30. The $70 million, 106-bed project will provide a state-of-the-art and expanded facility for the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health, Hayes said.

The Legislature approved $38 million in ARPA funding for the project, which is being carried out in partnership with the City of Tulsa and Oklahoma State University. It will be located on the campus of the OSU Center for Health Sciences, which will also house a new Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The psychiatric clinic is scheduled to open in November 2024.

“It’s really an exciting time,” Hayes said. “We’ve been thinking about it for 10 years.”

Thanks to ARPA funding, community support and greater awareness of mental health, the opportunity has finally come, he said.

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