SALEM (AP) — A state senator has strong reservations about Oregon’s plan to build a 360-bed mental hospital in Lane County.
Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, said the project is too expensive. And from a health perspective, he said, Oregon should create smaller 16-bed regional treatment facilities and spend money on programs designed to prevent hospitalization.
‘‘It’s like going out and drilling for more oil instead of going green,’’ Bates said this week during a Human Services Subcommittee meeting of the Legislative Emergency Board.
Though Bates is just one member of the Senate, he is a physician and considered influential on health matters. Moreover, John Britton, a state budget analyst with the Legislative Fiscal Office, has also called for reopening discussions about building the Junction City hospital.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, a strong supporter of putting a hospital in Junction City, told the Statesman Journal newspaper he was taken aback by his Bates’ call for the Legislature to consider shelving the project. Plans call for opening the Junction City hospital in 2013, two years after a 620-bed hospital opens in Salem. Both hospitals are intended to replace the 125-year-old Oregon State Hospital in Salem, which has been deemed unsafe and obsolete.
‘‘We have set a course for how we are going to deal with the mental health crisis in this state, and we have set it in terms of two institutions,’’ Courtney said.
Budgeted costs for building the two new psychiatric hospitals are $458 million. But in objecting to the Junction City project, Bates said he was alarmed by the estimated operating costs, which start at $213.7 million in the 2013-15 budget period.
‘‘The cost is huge, and it’s an ongoing cost,’’ Bates said
Linda Hammond, the hospital replacement administrator for the state Department of Human Services, said Thursday that the doubts don’t surprise her.
‘‘I’m not surprised that in this current environment people are looking at everything and every way they possibly can to reduce current and long-term state spending,’’ she said.