Reopening of old hospital opens the door for behavioral health services in the Western region

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A Dickinson, ND man is bringing back something old to create new a stream of healthcare services for people in the Western region. 

Andy Mejia has worked at CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson for the past five years, as the director of Risk Management and Quality.

During that time he and others have noticed an alarming trend.

“Each year we (CHI St. Alexius Health) conduct a survey, and we have noticed behavioral health is the major need and service for our community,” said Mejia.  

He said patients in rural areas generally have to travel to Fargo, Minot, or Bismark to receive behavioral health services, and he wants to bring them closer to home.

His solution is to repurpose the old St. Joseph’s Hospital into St. Joe’s Plaza.

A place where people can receive behavioral health services.

“The opportunities the space gives us is to bring in different types of services: inpatient, outpatient, and medical professional offices,” said Mejia.

The building closed its doors in 2014, and Mejia recently purchased the 200,000 square foot facility from CHI St Alexius Health for a good price that is confidential at this time said Mejia.

Reed Reyman, president of CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson, said he was extremely pleased that Mejia is using the building to provide a much-needed service in the community.

Reyman said that since the old hospital closed its doors two out – of – town developers showed interest in the property, but neither one worked out.

Before Mejia came along, he was worried that the building might have to be demolished.

Even though it has been closed for nearly five years, the property’s leasing agent, Kyle Kuntz, said the old hospital is in good shape and is suitable for medical providers’ needs. 

“It is not every day you have a building that can meet all those standards. . .  and you can basically walk in the door and be ready to operate,” said Kuntz.

Kuntz said the building is not strictly limited to behavioral services, and they are considering other possibilities. 

Kuntz said so far 10-15 groups have shown interest in leasing space at the building. 

“Anywhere from private, to public, to nonprofit, for profit. It has kinda been all over the board”.

One group that has already shown interest is Prairie St. John’s, who has a facility in Fargo, ND. 

“They shared with us that in the last six months they received a grant, and it will help them move with this project, and they are very interested in coming,” said Mejia. 

Reyman said Prairie St. John’s is interested in using space at St. Joe’s Plaza for both inpatient and outpatient services, but right now the talks are in the very early stages, as the two groups are waiting for action to be taken in the state legislature.

“We are hoping the legislature will consider the IMD exclusion for Medicaid, which will allow Prairie St. John’s to get paid for Medicaid patients if they have more than 16 beds, because they need about 30 beds to break even,” said Reyman.

Reyman also said Mejia and Kuntz have more flexibility on the rates they can offer providers looking to lease space, because St. Joe’s Plaza is a private institution, compared to CHI St. Alexius Health. 

“Andy(Mejia) has the flexibility to work as he needs to ensure he can fill up that space as quickly as possible, where I am bound by some laws and rules from federal regulation that makes it more difficult,” said Reyman.

Kuntz said when someone is ready to move in very little renovations will have to be done.

“It is a fully operational building. All communications lines are still in place: phones lines, the internet, all those things are ready”.

If things go good with the City of Dickinson, the Mejia and Kuntz would like to post public listings for available spaces in the next few days and eventually have the building open to the public in the next few months. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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