State’s largest inpatient mental health treatment facility to move to Oklahoma City

Hospital has been located in Norman for over a century

By: - September 12, 2023 3:14 pm

Pictured is an architectural rendering of The Donahue Behavioral Health Center that will be built in Oklahoma City. (Image provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services)

OKLAHOMA CITY — State health officials have announced plans to relocate the state’s largest inpatient mental health treatment facility to Oklahoma City from Norman, where it has stood for more than a century. 

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said a $147 million replacement facility for Griffin Memorial Hospital will be built on the Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus near Interstate 44 and West Reno Avenue. The hospital, which is projected to open in 2026, will serve both adults and children in the new 330-bed facility.  

State mental health officials said in a statement that the new 200,000-plus-square-foot Donahue Behavioral Health campus will increase mental health treatment capacity by 100 beds and create 250 jobs. It will also include a center that can provide immediate care to those suffering a mental health crisis.

The location was chosen, in part, because of the ease of access for patients, the agency said in its statement.

The facility is named for Dr. Hayden Donahue, the state’s mental health director in 1953, who shaped behavioral health treatment in Oklahoma, the agency said. 

“This hospital is an investment, dedicated to the people of Oklahoma,” said agency Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges in a statement. 

Oklahoma City and county had both pledged financial support if the state opted to move the aging facility out of Norman. Mental health officials estimated a five-year economic impact to the Oklahoma City metro of $447.5 million.

Oklahoma County Commissioners allocated $1.5 million in federal ARPA funds for relocation. Oklahoma City contributed $1 million. Funding will also come from local philanthropic organizations, according to the agency’s statement. 

Lawmakers also offered $87 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds if the new facility were located within 30 miles of the Capitol. 

Norman City Manager Darrel Pyle said Oklahoma City’s location made it difficult for his city to compete to retain the mental health facility.

Norman City and Cleveland County stakeholders are now rethinking the site’s future. 

To help pay for the new facility, the state agency plans to sell the 240 acres where the Griffin Memorial is currently located. Norman also leases land for parks there.

“The opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons is now tasted in that decision before us,” Pyle said. 

He and Cleveland County Commissioner Rod Cleveland said the site is ripe for redevelopment, including the possibility of creating new jobs if a manufacturer grabs the land. 

Cleveland said he’s held conversations with potential private developers interested in the site. He’d like the land to be developed in a way that can best provide jobs and housing in Norman.

The new Oklahoma City relocation is part of a broader overhaul of the state’s mental health treatment system.

The agency also broke ground in March on a new hospital in Tulsa, which is expected to open in late 2024 or early 2025. 

Both hospitals will also be built in partnership with Oklahoma State University. The $70 million Tulsa facility is also a partnership with the agency and OSU’s Center for Health Sciences.

OSU President Kayse Shrum said in a statement that the Oklahoma City location will help “address our most pressing needs.”

She also said the university is “committed to improving the mental health of all Oklahomans.”

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Mindy Ragan Wood
Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy covers the legislature for Oklahoma Voice. Her areas of focus include infrastructure, municipal government policies, and human services with an emphasis on the needs of intellectually vulnerable and physically challenged adults.