Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Missouri's Fulton State Hospital to announce that his balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 will recommend a strategic bond issuance that will make the resources available for the construction of a new maximum and intermediate security psychiatric facility in Fulton. The Governor said moving forward with this long-overdue public safety priority will mean better care for patients, more safety for employees and greater economic opportunities in the region.
"Rebuilding these deteriorating facilities will mean better care for patients, more safety for employees and greater opportunities for this region and I am pleased that strong bipartisan support continues to build for moving forward on this long-overdue project," Gov. Nixon said. "I look forward to working with the General Assembly in a bipartisan effort to replace this aging facility and fulfill the moral obligation we have to its patients and caregivers to provide an environment that is safe, secure and conducive to healing."
Built in 1851, the Fulton State Hospital is the oldest state psychiatric hospital west of the Mississippi River and houses the state's only maximum security psychiatric facility. The Biggs Forensic Center at Fulton treats patients with serious mental illness who are committed by Missouri courts for evaluation and treatment related to a crime, or who have seriously assaulted patients or staff in our other state psychiatric hospitals. Gov. Nixon's proposal will replace this antiquated and deteriorating facility with a new high and intermediate security complex that will be safer and more conducive to modern treatment.
Missouri has been a consistent and responsible issuer of bonds. This past July, the state retired the Third State Building Bonds, issued from 1983 to 1987. Missouri's debt as a percentage of personal income is less than half the national average. Since the Governor took office, Missouri's debt has been dramatically reduced. By Fiscal Year 2018, Missouri will have cut the principal owed in half.
The nation's top global credit-rating agencies reaffirmed Missouri's AAA status again this year, citing Gov. Nixon's fiscally disciplined management of state budget. Missouri's rare "triple-triple" status reflects Missouri's long track record of responsible fiscal management.
"Since I became Governor, our debt has fallen by over $450 million and will decline by another $400 million over the next four years. Today, Missouri is one of just a few states in the nation with a perfect AAA rating from all three rating agencies," Gov. Nixon said. "Investing in this important public safety priority now while interest rates are still low makes sense for these patients, their caregivers and Missouri taxpayers."
According to studies previously commissioned by the Legislature and other projections by Office of Administration, the cost of this new facility will be $211 million. The Missouri Department of Economic Development estimates that a $211 million construction project could create more than 2,500 new jobs in this area.
This past September, the Governor made $2 million in state funding available to begin the planning and design process of a new state hospital. Today, the Governor also announced that he has made $11 million in state funding available for this effort so that the state is positioned to move forward with the strategic bonding effort.
The final report of the Senate Interim Committee on Capital Improvement Assessment and Planning, issued on December 1, recommended that the legislature fund renovations and new construction needed for improvements at Fulton State Hospital and identified this issue as one of the state's top priorities for capital improvement.
Last year, Gov. Nixon implemented a $10 million strategic initiative to help identify and treat people with severe mental illness before they reach crisis point, and help communities respond to those who do. The Governor's initiative included placing Mental Health Liaisons at each of the 29 Community Mental Health Centers across Missouri; an expansion of Crisis Intervention and Mental Health First-Aid training throughout the state; and resources for emergency room intervention teams to work with patients needing coordinated care.
The Governor will present his balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 to the General Assembly in January.