EVANSTON — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, along with other statewide officials, visited Evanston on Thursday, April 26, to break ground on the Wyoming State Hospital (WSH) expansion project. In addition to Mead, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Treasurer Mark Gordon and Auditor Cynthia Cloud were on hand, as were Wyoming Department of Health Director Tom Forslund and Deputy Director Korin Schmidt.
The Wyoming Health Facilities Commission co-chairman, State Sen. Dan Dockstader, welcomed attendees to the ceremony and introduced dignitaries. Following his welcome, WSH CNA Niketa Matthews sang the national anthem, complete with cannon fire at the end in a bit of showmanship for those present.
Mead himself was the guest speaker at the ceremony, and in his remarks he noted the WSH groundbreaking had been “a long time coming.” Mead said Wyoming has recognized the need to care for those with mental illness since its days as a territory.
“In 1886, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature appropriated about $30,000 to construct facilities to care for the mentally ill,” he said. Mead said in his 2014 Wyoming State of the State address he called on the legislature to step up to provide funding for mental health facilities, including WSH and Life Resource Center in Lander. “Of course, $30,000 no longer suffices,” he said to chuckles of laughter.
Mead said he wanted to thank the Health Care Facilities Task Force, including co-chairs Dockstader and Sen. Lloyd Larsen, for their amazing work over the past several years in moving the project forward.
The goal, said Mead, is to move toward a shared system between WSH and the Lander facility. “The Wyoming State Hospital will focus on acute, short-term psychiatric services,” he said, while the Lander facility will specialize in more chronic, long-term care.
Mead said the new facilities will provide a critical safety network for those in need, with a strengthened system across Wyoming.
The bids for both projects have been awarded to Wyoming construction companies, with Groathouse Construction receiving the bid for WSH.
Mead said he will no longer be Wyoming’s governor when the project is completed in two years, but “I will look back in pride at this project because it reflects Wyoming’s values.”
“The Wyoming State Hospital has a history that began before Wyoming was a state,” Mead said. “This project is good not only for Evanston, but for the entire state.”
Mead said there will be another celebration in two years when the $75 million project is completed.
“Evanston should be proud of what you have here,” he said.