Senate OKs resolution for new State Hospital South building

Sen. Steve Bair

Sen. Steve Bair

By BRYAN CLARK, Post Register

BOISE — The Idaho Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that will authorize the state to seek $35 million in bonds for construction of a new skilled nursing facility at State Hospital South near Blackfoot.

The bonds would cover the cost of demolishing the existing Syringa Chalet skilled nursing facility, which lawmakers pointed out is 80 years old, in poor repair and at risk of not gaining certification. The facility provides residential nursing services to people who have been committed for serious mental health issues or have been unable to be cared for by outside nursing homes due to their mental health issues.

“They are in a position where they can’t take care of themselves,” said Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, the sponsor. “They don’t have family or friends necessarily to help take care of them.”

The population includes many who are suicidal or who have behavioral health problems that make them a risk to others, Bair said.

“That building runs the risk in the very near future of being unable to be recertified and relicensed,” Bair said.

The facility has old plumbing encased in thick concrete pillars making it hard to repair, he said. The concrete walls block Wi-Fi signals needed for modern emergency response equipment. There’s no centralized oxygen supply for patients who require respiratory care. There’s no kitchen to produce meals, so they have to be carted from elsewhere.

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, a member of the committee that oversees the fund that pays for state building maintenance, said he had toured the facility and determined it can’t be rehabilitated.

“I can tell you without question this particular building is not in need of a remodel. It’s in need of demolition,” Bair said.

The resolution next moves to the House.