Plans to turn the former Mineral Area Regional Medical Center (MARMC) building into a one-stop mental health center are moving forward with a $2 million grant officially announced recently from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
Through the St. Francois County Auditor’s Office, East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA) is one of 41 communities getting a statewide total of $41 million through Community Development Block Grants for COVID-19 projects (CDBG-CV). EMAA is receiving the building as a gift from Sharo Shirshekan, who continues to join EMAA in the renovation and repurposing project.
The 43,000 square-foot building is owned by Shirsheken, who owns several nursing homes in the state and has gifted many renovated buildings – even a fire truck – to municipal and charitable entities over the years. His specialty seems to be taking large, empty buildings and repurposing them for civic or nonprofit use. Bonne Terre Elementary School was turned into apartments which are now owned by the city which is housed in the renovated Bonne Terre Middle School building, for instance.
Shirshekan bought the vacant MARMC building in 2017 from BJC, which had purchased the competing hospital back in 2015 and closed it nine months later.
With the title “St. Francois County Behavioral Health Care Project,” the grant verbiage indicates, “the County will create a single location mental health service for those in need of behavioral health services in southeast Missouri.”
The St. Francois County Auditor’s Office made EMAA aware of the CDBG grant, and will oversee the financial details of its execution, which will be administered by EMAA as the applicant for the grant.
“Things are starting to move,” said EMAA Executive Director Keri McCrorey, who said they have a long range plan for putting the building to use. “The three-story part will actually house Great Mines Health Center and then we’ll work on the rest of the building. We’re applying for other grants for the rest of the building. But that’s our first initial renovation, is the three-story.”
McCrorey said they are working on finding a potential operator of the behavioral health hospital to go on the top floor of the hospital building.
“We will also be putting in a skilled nursing facility and assisted living facility with strong emphasis on behavioral health, potentially substance abuse, as well,” she said. “And then the three-story medical building would be Great Mines, which would be their community health center. That will have dental offices, a behavioral health clinic and then their regular medical clinic.”
McCrorey said March 2021 is when she and Shirshekan started talking about his vision for the hospital.
“He doesn’t want to run it, he just wanted to get connected with somebody who would step up to the plate and he would help us get it off the ground. EMAA agreed to do that,” she said.
A public hearing was held in November in which the projects details were shared as part of the CDBG grant application process.
“Shirshekan has spent several years on renovations and obtaining the proper permits and certificates of need from the state of Missouri for each type of facility in the complex,” McCrorey was quoted as telling the audience. “We need the $2 million to finish the renovations …”
After the original presentation, Shirshekan said, “This building will provide beginning-to-end service. People that come in crisis can go to the one-hour crisis or go to the 23-hour crisis depending on how severe they are. From crisis, if they are homeless, there is a 62-bed homeless shelter. They can house them there and feed them. We adjust their medication and check what is wrong with them; physically, mentally and chemically. Sometimes they are over-medicated, we detox them.”
He added the scope of the entire project stretches beyond the $2 million in the announced grant, but he is committed to funding the rest of the renovation and seeing the project to completion.
Gov. Mike Parson commented on the CDBG-CV grant winners in general.
“As our state moves on from the COVID-19 crisis, we’re proud that Missourians stayed the course through its difficulties,” said Parson. “The Community Development Block Grant program is helping Missouri communities invest in improvements to prepare for future challenges. By addressing key needs in infrastructure and public safety, these projects are building a stronger tomorrow and a more resilient Missouri.”
Amber Menjoulet, audit manager for the St. Francois County Auditor’s Office, said about the CDBG Grant, “There were other counties that received funding, there only three communities in the state that received the maximum amount of $2 million, which I feel is pretty significant.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or email@example.com.