Plan for psychiatric hospital revisited: Daniels team wants review of Larue Carter replacement

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A plan to build a new state psychiatric hospital near the IUPUI campus might wind up back on the drawing board.

The new administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to take a hard look at the freshly minted proposal to build a replacement for Larue D. Carter Memorial Hospital off of 16th Street on the near-north side.

The hospital currently occupies part of an old Veterans Affairs complex on Cold Spring Road. Last month, the state unveiled a plan to replace the hospital so it can avoid spending millions on repairs and code compliance in a few years, said Susan Williams, former executive director of the Indiana State Office Building Commission under Democrat Gov. Joe Kernan.

Before that happens, new Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Mitch Roob wants to make certain the state chose the best option.

“We’re going to seriously re-examine that, not the decision to move Larue Carter, but where it will be located,” Roob said.

He said he would like to see whether any viable locations exist on the IUPUI campus, aside from Carter’s original home. The hospital moved to Cold Spring Road from IUPUI in 1996.

He also wants to talk more with leaders at Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, the public entity responsible for Wishard Memorial Hospital. Roob said he’s working with them to devise a “seamless delivery mechanism” that provides quality care at a lower price.

He wonders whether the state might buy care more effectively from an established, inpatient unit than by building a new hospital.

Roob, who headed the Health and Hospital Corp. during the 1990s under Republican Mayor Steve Goldsmith, emphasized that he has no answers, but wants to explore these possibilities.

The people he’ll consult include Health and Hospital Corp. President and CEO Matt Gutwein and Dan Evans, leader of Clarian Health Partners.

“We’re going to try to put our heads together and figure out what the best care model is,” he said.

Roob said it should take about six months to review the plan.

He conceded all that thinking might lead them back to the plan set in motion last month by the Kernan administration.

If that’s the case, he’ll find plenty of groundwork already laid out, starting with a land purchase amounting to several million dollars.

In December, the Indiana State Office Building Commission authorized the purchase of an 18-acre plot of empty industrial land along Fall Creek for no more than $4.9 million. Williams said the state completed that purchase last month.

The land sits north of 10th Street in an area designated by the city and BioCrossroads for life sciences development. It also sits near IUPUI, which will bring Carter closer to the IU School of Medicine. The school provides psychiatrists and uses Carter as a teaching hospital.

Last month, the commission also authorized the hiring of an architect and project manager. It chose Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects to design the hospital for a fee of no more than $4.6 million.

The state also hired consultants a few months ago to discern the exact needs and size for a new hospital.

Paperwork filed with the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development calls for a design that can handle 200 patients initially with the ability to increase in-patient capacity to 250.

The hospital could cost $55 million, according to Williams. She said the General Assembly already approved the bonds needed to finance the land purchase and construction.

Despite all these items checked off the to-do list, much preliminary work remains.

The state Department of Administration, the budget agency, the governor and the attorney general must review contracts initiated for the plan, said Brian Renner, deputy director for the State Office Building Commission.

Indiana also must break its lease for Carter’s current home with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The state paid $10 million in 1996 for a 35-year lease, said Craig Anderson, a VA development officer.

The VA invested that money and has used returns to purchase surgical and operating room equipment, among other things.

The lease covers 335,000 square feet of building space and contains some escape clauses for the state, Anderson said. If the state were to leave, the VA would waste little time looking for a replacement.

“Clearly in the interest of taxpayers’ dollars, we’ll have to find a tenant in the immediate future after their departure,” he said.

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