Meridian Star

Local News

April 13, 2014

Progress

EMSH breaks ground on $17 million project

MERIDIAN —     A groundbreaking, a building dedication, and the official decommissioning of three buildings will mark progress later this week at the East Mississippi State Hospital.

    The hospital, 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, according to 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 Miss. State Hospital's assistant director  said the public is invited to the groundbreaking, dedication, and decommissioning to be held on 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," McKnight said. "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 Miss. State Hospital what it is."

    During a recent tour of the construction site, MIke Hicks of Chris Albritton Construction said the weather last week created a minor setback as they had to pump between 60,000 to 70,000 gallons of water out of the holes dug for the foundation. They excavated dirt 11 feet down, removing dirt that they said would not support the foundation of the building. Hicks said they will replace it, compacting the soil before they pour the foundation.

    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 EMSH's food services provider.

    In addition to celebrating new construction, EMSH will decommission 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 both 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 EMSH 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," Broadhead said. " Crest too has been vacated."

    The building referred to as 202, the R.P. White Nursing Facility, was constructed in 1951 with 21,800 square feet for $304,000.

    "Although named R.P. White 202, most everyone still refers to the building as 202," Broadhead said. "It currently is still in service housing our Professional Development Department, but for most of its years of service it was a nursing home and a continuing care unit for long-term male patients."

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