Park Nicollet Foundation has received an $18.7 million gift to expand Melrose Center, a group of HealthPartners clinics that focus on treating eating disorders.

The gift comes from Ken Melrose, the former chief executive of the Toro Co., who made an earlier donation that helped establish Melrose Center about 10 years ago within Park Nicollet Clinic HealthSystem.

“This will allow us to continue to innovate,” said Heather Gallivan, the clinical director for Melrose Center, which has its largest of five offices in St. Louis Park.

“As a field, we still have a lot to learn,” Gallivan said. “Gifts like this will allow us to expand our services, our treatment offerings and our understandings of eating disorders and how to best treat them.”

HealthPartners, which is based in Bloomington, is one of the state’s largest nonprofit groups, selling health insurance and running a network of seven hospitals and roughly 100 clinics. Park Nicollet merged with HealthPartners in 2013.

Toro is Bloomington-based maker of lawn mowers, irrigation equipment and snowblowers.

Melrose retired as CEO of the company in 2005 and retired as chairman in 2006.

He has served on the board of directors at both HealthPartners and Park Nicollet.

“My hope is that this gift raises awareness about the importance of eating disorder programs and inspires other people to get involved too,” Ken Melrose said in a news release.

The money will fund an endowment that will provide more opportunities for training, Gallivan said, as well as telehealth technology that makes it easier for patients across the state to access health care.

The funds also will help Melrose Center move this year into a larger space in Burnsville, she said, and eventually add a fourth floor to its office in St. Louis Park.

Melrose Center leaders said it worked with 3,300 patients last year and has seen a 24% increase in patients seeking treatment since 2015.

“Overall, our communities have done a great job working to decrease the stigma around all mental health issues and making it OK to talk about things such as eating disorders, depression, mental health,” Gallivan said. “So, I think more people are coming to treatment.”

The Park Nicollet Foundation is part of HealthPartners, which said the donation from Ken Melrose is the largest ever in its history of more than 50 years.

The predecessor to HealthPartners was Group Health, which was operated from 1957 to 1992.