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Psychiatric hospital planned for Woodbury

Associated Press

WOODBURY, Minn. — A shortage of beds for psychiatric patients in the Twin Cities is driving the plans for a new 80-bed hospital in Woodbury, according to the developers.

The shortage of beds has often left mentally unstable patients waiting in emergency rooms, squad cars or homeless shelters. Twin Cities patients often wind up at the Prairie St. John’s hospital in Fargo, N.D., because closer beds are filled.

"The reason we’re opening a new psychiatric hospital is because there is such a shortage of psychiatric beds in the Twin Cities," said Rich Failla, regional chief executive officer for Prairie St. John’s, a for-profit hospital company.

While acknowledging the need for more beds in the metro area, some mental health advocates are giving the planned Woodbury hospital only tepid support. They say the solution is more community mental health services, not more inpatient confinement.

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"We know that people can’t get in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need more beds," said Sue Abderholden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota. "I always worry, to be honest, when we look at increasing our capacity for the highest-cost service. From my vantage point, we’re not sure" whether it’s needed.

Under Minnesota law, the Legislature must grant permission before another hospital can be built. Last month, Prairie St. John’s notified the state Health Department of its plans to build near the Woodwinds Health Campus.

The department will evaluate whether the hospital is needed and advise the Legislature, which could vote on the proposal next year.

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