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UK Healthcare to Operate New Eastern State Hospital

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A new building for Eastern State Hospital, one of the country’s oldest medical facilities for the mentally ill, will be managed and operated by the University of Kentucky. Reporter Brenna Angel has details.

Officials announced Friday that UK Healthcare has signed a letter of intent with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services to run Eastern State Hospital, with an initial budget of $43 million a year in state funding.

Cabinet Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes says UK has significant expertise in clinical treatment and research of mental illness that will help the hospital.

“That is a whole new level of care that is not at the old Eastern State, just one of many new services that will be integrated here.”

Eastern State is currently managed by the struggling Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board. A state audit last year found questionable spending by Bluegrass, which is also laying off employees to deal with a budget deficit.

Gov. Steve Beshear says discussions about the new partnership for Eastern State started before that audit.

“Actually, in conversations between UK and the Cabinet on a number of things, this discussion came up and it was really when a light bulb came on in terms of a unique way to elevate this whole area to a new level.”

Officials say Bluegrass will still play a role in helping treat the mentally ill patients served by Eastern State.

The new $129 million facility, expected to open this summer, will include 239 patient beds, three personal care homes, and a new unit for patients with brain injuries.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.