New facility approved for State Hospital South

Catie Clark

Both the Idaho Senate and House of Representatives have passed Concurrent Resolution 140, authorizing the financing of a new skilled nursing facility at the State Hospital South in Blackfoot. The new building will replace the current facility. State Senator Steve Bair (R โ€” Bingham Co.) was the author of this legislation and Representative Neil Anderson (R โ€” Bingham Co.) sponsored it in the House.
The resolution authorizes the Department of Health and Welfare to enter into an agreement with the Idaho State Building Authority to issue bonds to fund the new facility. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously on March 6 and passed the House 53-15-2 on March 13.
"We have a need for a new facility," Said James Price, the administrator of State Hospital South. "It will a place for Idaho's most vulnerable citizens โ€” a safe place to serve them and treat."
The current building, known as the Syringa Chalet Skilled Nursing Facility, was built in 1938. It was originally used as a doctor's office and surgical unit. It was later converted in a nursing facility with 29 beds. It was named the Syringa Chalet after Idaho's state flower.
The Syringa Chalet has multiple problems, many of which can no longer be renovated away. For example, the building has only community restrooms, no kitchen to provide meals to patients, and critically outdated electrical and plumbing. Food must be carted over 200 yards into the facility 3 times per day regardless of the weather. The elevators are in bad shape. The Idaho Bureau of Facility Standards which enforces Medicare and Medicaid standards has expressed concern for the health of the residents due the aging infrastructure.
The estimated cost of demolishing the old Syringa Chalet and building its replacement is $35 million.
"We have spent considerable time working with the Dept. of Health and Welfare to adjust the size and building layout to make it more efficient and cost effective," said Bair, referring to the proposed design to replace the Syringa Chalet structure. "This badly-needed facility will provide safety for patients and staff and the ability to serve those very vulnerable, yet sometimes violent members of our society."
"First, Health and Welfare will make an agreement with the Building Authority over bonds, which should be issued this summer," Price said. "Then it will probably take a year for the architectural work to be done. The new facility should be open and ready for its first residents three years from this summer."
Tracey Sessions retired last June after nine years as the administrator of State Hospital South. She still works on special projects for the hospital.
On the subject of the new facility, Sessions said: "I can't tell you how excited I am. This will be such an asset for the people of Idaho. This warms all of our hearts. It's been a real team effort and it could not have done without the help of our local legislators. I am full of gratitude for the all work everyone has done to get this to pass."
Referring to the authorship of the legislation and its sponsorship in the both the Senate and House, she remarked ""We owe a lot to Bair and Anderson, who worked so hard for us."
After the House passed the resolution to fund the new facility, Anderson said: "I'm happy to be a part of this accomplishment. I'm pleased I could do something to benefit the Idaho citizens at the facility and the staff that takes care of them."
Bair was just as pleased: "I'm absolutely thrilled that the legislature has supported a new skilled nursing facility. It's a great opportunity to take care of the most vulnerable of patients."