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Legislative committee over virus relief funds recommends $7.5M for Oklahoma Children's Hospital project

 Oklahoma Children's Hospital
OU Health
Oklahoma Children's Hospital

The state legislative committee providing oversight of Oklahoma’s American Rescue Plan funds recommends giving $7.5 million toward a renovation and expansion of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital emergency department.

Plans call for adding more than 6,000 square feet and several more beds to the OU Health facility. Ten of the new beds would be dedicated to behavioral health emergencies, bringing the total to 34. Sen. John Haste (R-Broken Arrow) said there’s great need for mental health care.

“At Children's Hospital, suicidal teens are seen at every shift. The pandemic increased the needs for behavioral health care dramatically. Children's saw a 31% increase in cases by October 2020 and then doubled by May 2021,” Haste said.

Additional beds could roughly double the hospital’s annual capacity and prevent it from needing to divert children to Dallas or other cities out of state because it ran out of beds. Construction can start next year and be done in 2023.

“So, this is something that can move, move quickly and would start having an immediate effect on citizens within the state of Oklahoma,” Haste said.

Current plans would see 49% of the money needed come from federal virus relief funds, but the committee is recommending only $7.5 million right now. The total cost is expected to be nearly $116 million.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.