Ten years ago, Missouri’s Department of Mental Health faced a crossroads. We knew how important access to mental health care was—and is—to Missourians. We also knew the state could no longer afford to provide acute-care inpatient psychiatry services, and the national recession only exacerbated the problems underlying this realization.

In 2009, the Department of Mental Health was running acute inpatient care facilities across the state, including the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center in Columbia. If we simply shut it down, we would be eliminating a much-needed resource that served all central Missourians. Instead, we reached out to the University of Missouri and MU Health Care with a unique offer: take over Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center and bring it under the MU Health Care umbrella.

It was an uncertain venture for both sides. MU Health Care had never run an acute-care psychiatric hospital before. The Department of Mental Health had never completely turned over a health care facility. No one knew what this change should look like, or whether it would succeed. After much negotiation, state leaders and MU Health Care mutually agreed to take a leap of faith. A group of MU Health Care and state administrators worked for two months to set up the infrastructure required for the change, despite not knowing whether Governor Jay Nixon would sign the bill allowing the transition to take place.

Governor Nixon did sign the bill in late June 2009, just in time for the new fiscal year on July 1. At the end of the day on June 30, Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center ceased to exist, and the morning of July 1, 2009 the University of Missouri Psychiatric Center opened. The hand-off went seamlessly. Patient care never stopped while an entire new entity took over the hospital.

Today, I am pleased to say MU Health Care’s Missouri Psychiatric Center has exceeded our expectations in every way. Under the leadership of Dr. John Lauriello, MUPC’s Executive Medical Director, it has grown into a state-of-the-art, acute psychiatric hospital that expertly serves central Missourians’ mental health care needs.

Now more than ten years later, MUPC patients have access to better treatment than ever before along with a cutting edge pediatric behavioral unit.

There has also been impressive physical growth. The emergency department serving MUPC has grown from three rooms to the ten-bed emergency department of today, which offers 14 patient observation stations. The facility will soon unveil an innovative play-therapy area for both adults and children. Later this year, they will open an integrative medicine unit where patients will receive the physical and behavioral health care they need from a team of physicians including hospitalists, internal medicine specialists, and psychiatrists.

Ten years ago, the goal was to preserve and enhance access to mental health care for the people of central Missouri. I continue to be impressed with the growth and development of MUPC. I am truly grateful to Dr. Lauriello, his expert team of health care providers, and to both MU Health Care and the University of Missouri System for all they have done. Congratulations to MUPC on your tenth anniversary. We are grateful for all you have accomplished and look forward to continued partnership in improving health outcomes for Missourians for years to come.