State recommends shrinking Caro mental health facility 

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    After months of debate and uncertainty over the future of a mental health facility in rural Caro, the state has officially recommended that it shrink its number of beds and move some residents to other state facilities.

    The Caro facility, which currently has roughly 150 beds, will have 84 under the plan recommended by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) after a review by an independent consultant. The state said that the number of patients that would exceed the new capacity will be shifted to other state hospitals, including some currently closed that will be reopened.

    The 2018 ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new Caro Psychiatric Hospital: Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget Director David DeVries; Cynthia Kelly of MDHHS; Gov. Rick Snyder; Caro Center Director Rose Laskowski; and MDHHS Director Nick Lyon | MDHHS photo

    The state framed the move as better suiting the needs of patients than the originally proposed plan for a $115 million expansion.

    “These recommendations will sustain and strengthen the Caro community’s historic role in providing psychiatric care,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon in a statement. “They will also improve the quality of mental health services at state hospitals, while expanding community-based care. Finally, the recommendations will achieve their results at significantly lower cost than the legislature previously anticipated, allowing for additional investment in other urgent health priorities.”

    The original plan that would have expanded the Caro facility to around 200 beds was put into action by GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder, who broke ground on the planned new facility last October.

    State Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) criticized the change of plans in a statement.

    Phil Green

    “The point of the appropriation made by the 99th Legislature was to provide an update to the current facility so that it could remain operational,” Green wrote. “The facility as it stands today is already on the path to closure. Without needed and promised repairs, the current facility could soon pose a safety risk for the many patients and residents who depend on quality care, as well as staff members of the Caro Center.”

    Republicans have previously criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to review the Caro project, arguing it showed a disregard for rural communities. 

    Critics of the Caro project have long said that its location makes it inaccessible to many of the families it would potentially serve and argued it shouldn’t be expanded primarily to serve as a jobs program.

    AFSCME Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig said the union is “thrilled with the decision” to keep the Caro Center open, but expressed concern about decreasing the number of beds.

    “We are so proud of our members at the Caro Center and across the State who mobilized their communities to build a strong coalition in support of the Caro Center project and the patients they care for,” he said.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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