- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - State officials said Wednesday that they will break ground early next year on a nearly $120 million hospital that will serve as the flagship institution of Indiana’s mental health system.

The 159-bed Indiana Neuro-Diagnostic Institute will replace Larue D. Carter Memorial Hospital, which state officials described as “deteriorating.” The cost of construction, which is slated to begin in April, will be paid for with money borrowed by the state.

State health officials said the new hospital, which will be a hub of the state’s recently created mental health hospital network, will take a new approach. The hope is that people with chronic mental health issues who might otherwise be incarcerated, homeless or inadequately cared for will be able to go to a central location to be accurately diagnosed by experts. From there, they could be referred to other services, treatment or be sent to one of the state’s five other regional facilities.

Dr. John Wernert, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said that the name of the hospital literally explains the state’s new focus when it comes to mental health.

“‘Neuro’ is a word that pertains to the brain,” he said. “‘Diagnostic’ reflects the techniques used in diagnosing illnesses.”

It is expected to start accepting patients in 2018 and will focus on treating mental illness, addiction, degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as brain injuries. Officials hope the hospital will be able to treat as many as 1,500 patients a year.

In a predominantly rural state like Indiana, that could dramatically improve the way people with disorders are treated, said Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura.

Patients “are left to family practitioners - God love them - who do the best they can,” said Bonaventura “Through this initiative … doctors from all over the state can get the help and assistance to make sure they are getting the right diagnosis and delivering the right treatment.”

Gov. Mike Pence, lawmakers and state health officials attended a ceremony Wednesday morning at the planned construction site, which is on the campus of Community East Hospital.

“This announcement today is about confronting mental illness in Indiana,” Pence said. “It’s about creating new options for treatment.”

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Follow Brian Slodysko on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BrianSlodysko

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