A new era for hospital; Worcester ceremonies.

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Byline: Lee Hammel

The following correction was published in the Telegram & Gazette on May 16, 2009:

WORCESTER - The new Worcester State Hospital will have 320 beds. Because of an editor's error, the number of beds was incorrect in one reference in a story in yesterday's Telegram & Gazette.

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WORCESTER - In between the boarded-up, brick Clock Tower where people with mental illness were treated two centuries ago and the foundations for buildings where state-of-the-art psychiatry will be practiced, state officials yesterday celebrated the commitment of $302 million to a new Worcester State Hospital. On this 22-acre site, Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm vowed at the hospital's groundbreaking ceremony, the state "will be in the vanguard of psychiatric inpatient facilities. Massachusetts will lead the nation as a model in its design."

The design by Ellenzweig Associates of Cambridge is flexible and will accommodate advances in clinical care and adapt to various types of patients, said JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services.

Exciting as is the promise of the opening of a modern building in spring 2012 for 260 adult and 60 adolescent psychiatric patients, yesterday was a day to reflect on the past.

Worcester State Hospital opened 176 years ago as the first state psychiatric hospital in the country, Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray noted, and immediately served as a model for the rest of the country. The state hospital has had great impact on the community as well, and the former Worcester mayor is no exception: his parents - a nurse and a state hospital ward worker - met at Worcester State Hospital.

He said the state hospital, the construction of which is safely tucked into a capital bond issue passed last year and not dependent on the state's ever-shrinking operational budget, will be an economic engine for the city even after the construction jobs end. The 360-bed hospital (SEE PUBLISHED CORRECTION) under construction by Gilbane Construction will replace the antiquated state hospitals in Worcester and Westboro, which have 354 beds between them.

Getting credit yesterday were legislators who blocked numerous attempts over the years to close the hospitals unless there was a plan to replace them and pushed for the study that resulted in the 430,000-square-foot hospital under construction. State Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, and state Reps. Vincent A. Pedone, D- Worcester...

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