A small but important addition to Minnesota’s world-class network of hospitals just opened its doors on the rapidly developing former farm fields of Brooklyn Park.
The 50-bed PrairieCare pediatric psychiatric hospital, which began accepting patients last Tuesday, reflects both the demand for this specialized care and the need for state-of-the-art mental health treatment facilities. PrairieCare is a for-profit, physician-owned health care provider.
The new 72,000-square-foot, stand-alone hospital is at the corner of Hwy. 610 and Zane Avenue. PrairieCare relocated from a 25,000-square-foot facility with 20 beds in Maple Grove. The new facility also provides outpatient care, and its location in the western metro along a major highway will make it more accessible for families outside the Twin Cities.
The hospital’s opening comes after the Legislature put a welcome spotlight earlier this year on the plight of families struggling to find a bed for their child in the state’s strained mental health system. There’s a need for pediatric hospital beds and, even more acutely, more intensive residential treatment centers for those are seriously ill but don’t require hospitalization. An Elko, Minn., mother testified movingly at the State Capitol during the past session about having to send her 17-year-old son, who has struggled with bipolar disorder, to a treatment center in Iowa when no facility was available in Minnesota.
Thankfully, lawmakers responded with compassion and common sense, making a historic investment of $46 million to expand mental health services for adults and kids over the next biennium. Of that, $6.6 million is aimed at creating up to 150 new beds for children who don’t require hospitalization but still need an intensive level of care.
The new PrairieCare facility for children and adolescents is one piece of the puzzle, albeit an important one, in building the kind of high-quality, modern mental health system that Minnesota families deserve. Its opening should create momentum for additional progress.
The building’s healing atmosphere should also be a model for other facilities. Dated institutional decor has been banished. The new hospital features natural stone, calming colors, spacious individual rooms resembling college dorms, a playground, and a large indoor recreation area with soaring windows where staff plan to hold dances or yoga sessions. On Wednesday, a handful of kids were hanging out here on exercise bikes or playing a loose game of kickball.
Older and younger children are also on separate levels in the facility, a best-practices approach, and there’s a wing on each age-group level for kids who need more intensive treatment. PrairieCare didn’t forget about patients’ families, either. There are separate lobbies to provide more calming places to wait, as well as a meditation room with a waterfall.
The new facility will help fill a critical gap, but there is much more work to be done to ensure that Minnesota has adequate beds for kids in crisis. A state task force focusing on the issue has yet to be appointed. The group’s work can’t begin too soon.