EMSH to break ground on $14M project

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - A groundbreaking, a building dedication, and the closing of three buildings will mark progress later this week at the East Mississippi State Hospital.

The mental health institution, which first opened in 1885, is growing with an investment of $14 million, which will fund, in part, a new receiving unit for acute care and a central mechanical building, said Susie Broadhead, public relations director.

The project includes the 60-bed receiving unit, the central mechanical building, roadways and other related infrastructure. The mechanical building will house heating, air-conditioning, generators, and hot water for three buildings; two of which will be constructed in the next phase, Broadhead said.

The receiving unit will be a one story brick building of 45,000 gross square feet, and the mechanical building will contain 7,100 gross square feet.

The building, which will replace older units, should be ready for occupancy by the end of 2015.

Larry McKnight, East Mississippi State Hospital’s assistant director, said the groundbreaking, dedication and decommissioning are Thursday at 1 p.m. He said this has been about eight years in the making.

“During that time, mental health programming has become more community based, but yet the need for acute care remains.

“Thanks to the efforts of some very supportive state legislators and an aggressive Mississippi Department of Mental Health Board of Directors, which includes local Meridian attorney Rick Barry, what we will celebrate Thursday will be a pinnacle of success for not only those currently in our care, but also for our past and present employees who have made and do make East Mississippi State Hospital what it is,” McKnight said.

The new receiving unit will allow the hospital to move patient care from the 1885 four-story building. That building, Broadhead said, will not be decommissioned; it will be used for other purposes.

While celebrating the beginning of construction of the receiving unit, the hospital will also dedicate another new building that opened earlier this year - a new 21,000 square feet dining facility. The $7 million cafeteria serves more than 1,000 meals per day and has a state-of-the-art prep and cooking area, two dining rooms, a conference room and office space. Valley Services Inc. is the facility’s food services provider.

In addition to celebrating new construction, the hospital will close and later demolish three buildings, having received permission from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The Lewis building was built 1950 at a cost of $800,000, with an area of 42,000 square feet. This building served in many capacities during its lifespan. It once housed the Adolescent Unit, which served adolescent males and females, then just males. It later became the Continuing Care Unit for long term care of both males and females. When it was vacated in 2013, it was serving as an acute care unit for females.

“The Lewis Building has always been one of our most beloved buildings, with many of our 25-30 year employees having begun their careers in Lewis, which was once known as the A Building,” Broadhead said. “It was renamed the Lewis Building in honor of longtime staff physician, Dr. Wiley Lewis.”

The Crest Building was built in 1957 for $175,000. With an area of 21,600 square feet. Crest too served in many capacities, even a dormitory at one time for hospital staff. Many retired employees once lived there.

“In the past decade, it housed our Chemical Dependency Unit for males as well as Intermediate Care Services which was where on-campus patients moved in order to begin transitioning back into the community. Crest too has been vacated,” Broadhead said.

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