Our Opinion: A vision and an investment deserve support

Health care, education and economic development possibilities will flourish if an announced public-private proposal comes to fruition.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday he will request $10 million in state funding to renovate a portion of St. Mary’s Health Center for two Lincoln University programs.

Credit officials of SSM Health Care, which owns the seven-acre complex to be vacated, for both their generosity and vision. The health care provider intends to donate the property to the state after moving to a new facility being built on Missouri 179.

“This is an opportunity to expand higher education with a particular interest on nursing and aligning the mission and values of SSM Health Care,” said Brent VanConia, regional president of SSM’s Mid-Missouri Region and president of the local hospital.

The expanded instruction referenced by VanConia is Lincoln University’s nursing program, which now serves 120 students in Eliff Hall on the university campus. In addition to transferring nursing students to renovated facilities, plans call for the establishment of a culinary arts program for LU students.

Nixon is seeking the $10 million to renovate and equip an estimated one-third of the existing St. Mary’s facility for the two student programs. Plans for the remainder of the complex have not been finalized.

Although the possibilities are encouraging, reality reminds us to temper expectations.

The governor’s budget, unveiled Tuesday in connection with his State of the State address, now faces the legislative process.

Local lawmakers are supportive, and we believe they offer sound arguments, including the opportunity to train professionals in the expanding field of health care.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said: “We need to position this on the economic impact this will have, as we move forward, and look at it as an investment.”

The proposal is an investment — in education, health care and economic development in Missouri. We encourage lawmakers to share that vision and support the investment.

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