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Ceremony kicks off construction of new Fulton State Hospital

Artist rendering of the new Fulton State Hospital, set to be completed by December 2017.
EYP | Parsons Brinckerhoff | Heery

Construction on a new state mental hospital in Fulton is now officially underway, following Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony on the hospital's campus.

Gov. Jay Nixon told a group of about 100 officials, supporters and local citizens that the $211 million project will have built-in improvements that will prove to be user-friendly to both patients and staff.

"Better lines of sight will ensure greater security and diminished stress on workers, which in turn will enable us to attract and retain the best staff," Nixon said. "Over time, this project will reduce costs related to repairs, utilities, workers' compensation, and overtime. The layout of the new facility was designed to provide maximum flexibility for the future, so that the residential units and treatment areas can be expanded as needed without demolishing existing needed structures."

Nixon added that construction of the new hospital could create more than 2,500 jobs in the Fulton area, based on estimates by the Deptartment of Economic Development.

Building a new Fulton State Hospital effectively became a done deal last year, when lawmakers and Nixon authorized up to $220 million in bonds to finance construction.

"It's been here since 1851, and it's going to be here for another hundred years," Nixon said. "Making sure that we have a facility that matches that, within the constraints of our budget, was important to do."

The new Fulton State Hospital is scheduled to be open by December 2017. It will replace several outdated buildings and facilities that have been collectively rated as the most dangerous place to work in Missouri, including the Biggs Forensic Center, the state's only maximum security psychiatric facility.

Construction and demolition work actually began earlier this month, despite Wednesday's official "groundbreaking." Biggs will be the last building demolished, once the new facility is ready to receive patients. The move is tentatively scheduled for spring 2018.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.