Two Fulton State Hospital projects in proposed budget

Gov. Mike Parson's proposed $46 billion budget for 2022-23 includes funding for two additional programs at Fulton State Hospital.

One would add a ward to the Hearnes Forensic Center for dual diagnosis patients and the other would renovate part of Biggs Forensic Center to focus on sex offender rehabilitation treatment services.

Inclusion of the two projects in Parson's proposed budget has Departmental of Mental Health Director Valerie Huhn excited for the possibilities.

Hearnes Forensic Center

The Hearnes Forensic Center is a minimum-security developmentally disabled treatment unit with 24 beds. Parson's budget proposes adding 15 beds.

Huhn said the center has experience working with patients who have a dual diagnosis (DD) of mental illness and developmental disability. In some cases, she said, these patients need a more secure and therapeutic environment.

"Fulton has been very successful with that," Huhn said. "They actually have a unit right now that focuses on that. We've seen people progress through there and been able to actually get back out into the community."

The facility is for patients who are temporarily or permanently incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of mental disease.

"A lot of times, we kind of look at congregate living and that type of living arrangement is not the most ideal," Huhn said. "We definitely agree with that. We also know that a lot of times, these DD individuals will just go from placement to placement to placement. They do need some continuity, some place to get stabilized, some place they can stay until we can really integrate them back into the community and they can be successful."

Biggs Forensic Center

In Parson's proposed plan for American Rescue Plan funds, he recommends spending $13,188,375 to renovate the former Biggs Forensic Center at Fulton State Hospital.

While the majority of the Briggs building is being demolished, Huhn said, there's a section that was added around the 1960s, which can be renovated.

The planned renovation would put 85 beds into the facility. The existing program has 125 beds.

"We won't fill 85 all at once," Huhn said. "We'll get so many a year. We will eventually fill them."

The facility would be part of the state's Sex Offender Rehabilitation Treatment Services (SORTS) program, which first came to Fulton State Hospital in 2010.

The program is for sexual offenders who have been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity or committed as a criminal sexual psychopath.

"As that program continues to grow, we have to have bed space," Huhn said. "We're in the building phase. We know we'll need that kind of capacity."