Mental health building

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New mental health building is only the beginning

Steve Wellington serves on the Regions Hospital Board of Directors. He shared this story at the groundbreaking celebration on June 28, 2011.

Steve Wellington

I have been honored to serve on the Regions Hospital Board for the past eight years. We have accomplished many things during my tenure, but nothing in my eight years of work at Regions makes me prouder than starting work on our new $36 million mental health building.

I grew up with a father who struggled with serious mental illness his entire life. It was confusing and challenging for me as a young teenager when my dad lost his job and was institutionalized. Our family had the resources to provide good care for my father and he eventually recovered and had a productive and happy retirement. But for many in our community, family support is not available and services are hit or miss. While we have passed laws requiring parity care for mental health services, quality care for people in need both in the community or in a hospital is hard to find and harder still to pay for.

We all stand here today making a statement. This new mental health building is a $36 million statement that HealthPartners cares deeply about mental health. It is a statement by Regions Hospital that we mean what we say when we talk about providing the best care and best experience to all our patients. Someone experiencing depression, drug addiction or schizophrenia will now have the right to a private room and a caring staff in the best mental health building in the land. Right here in St. Paul.

This building is not an end but really only a beginning. We need to link this amazing new building to high quality transitional care and supportive housing. We need to expand our partnerships with the community clinics and social service providers who make sure that patients receive high quality care even after they are discharged from the hospital. We need to expand both inpatient and outpatient mental health services to kids and adolescents. We need to reach out to the homeless, two thirds of whom suffer from a mental illness or addiction.

I think the new building is going to make it easier for all of us to think big and act boldly in support of such services. I think our work here in St. Paul can and should become a national model for mental health care.

The Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tze said, “The journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step.” Today we are taking one big step toward addressing a need in our community that for too long has remained a second priority.