WILLMAR, Minn. — The ground is already well and truly broken at the site of what will be the new state Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services hospital in Willmar.

But on Friday, June 7, a large crowd of state, county and local representatives gathered at the construction site to celebrate the achievement.

“We have been needing this for a long time. This is a big day for the kids, community and the Department of Human Services,” said State Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey.

CABHS offers treatment and care for some of the state’s most vulnerable children with mental health and behavioral conditions.

“Most of them have multiple diagnoses, multiple conditions at a very tender age,” Lourey said. “If we can get them the treatment they need, we can set them up for a much better life.”

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Willmar has been home to CABHS for 30 years, located at what is now the MinnWest Technology Campus. The current site can only take up to eight patients and has started to show its age.

The new structure, located south of the Minnesota Department of Transportation building and near the Willmar Civic Center, will be 18,000 square feet and cost about $10 million. It will double the number of patients allowed at one time to 16. The new hospital will also provide private rooms with bathrooms for each patient, a flexible layout that allows for different types of therapy options and two large outdoor, monitored courtyards with areas for the children to play.

“A new state-of-the-art facility, with really clinically appropriate treatment space and really inviting space for families to be with their kids,” Lourey said of the new facility. “It is for kids to heal and get on a better path. This is (the facility) we are going to do here in Willmar.”

Supporters of CABHS, including staff, patients and lawmakers, have been working for several years to get a new hospital in Willmar. State Representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said many people had shown him how important CABHS is to the children and their families.

“I understood the need. When I met some of the patients there firsthand, and saw how amazing the kids were, it just made me go, ‘we need to do this,’” Baker said.

The community was also paramount in getting the new hospital approved and why it remains in Willmar, according to officials. Members of the community traveled over and over again to St. Paul to testify in support of the hospital and the treatment opportunities it offers, they said.

“They said ‘look, we’ve been serving this population for over 30 years. This is what we do, this is part of the community, this is part of the fabric of who we are,’” Lourey said. “We listened and we are very excited to be celebrating in Willmar – for the entire state of Minnesota – this is a grand opportunity to break ground on the statewide CABHS facility.”

The new hospital is scheduled to open in the spring of 2020. Baker is hoping CABHS will be just the first step in expanding the mental health services offered in Willmar, which could bring people from around the region to Willmar. He feels this could be the best campus in the Upper Midwest.

“We are going to have a facility that we are going to be so proud of in Willmar. The only one in Minnesota, right here,” Baker said.