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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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University Breaks Ground on Clinical Sciences Building

Building will provide area residents access to affordable health care services.

2014-09-30
Jessica Bies, Mankato Free Press, 9-27-2014

Minnesota State University, Mankato broke ground on a building Friday that college officials say will make it easier for area residents to access affordable speech and hearing services, as well as health and dental care.

Kris Retherford, dean of Minnesota State Mankato's College of Allied Health and Nursing, said the facility will allow students and area professionals alike to participate in customized health-care training. The new $25.8 million clinical sciences building will house not only a 24-chair dental clinic, but 14 examination/consultation rooms coupled with labs, classrooms or observation areas, office space and several student interaction and study spaces.

Occupying it will be two departments from Minnesota State Mankato's College of Allied Health and Nursing: the School of Nursing and the departments of Dental Hygiene and Speech and Hearing & Rehabilitation Services. Students in both will have access to state-of-the-art training facilities and will be able to work collaboratively with faculty and students from all over campus.

“They'll be elbow to elbow, side by side all the disciplines housed in the building,” Retherford said.

The new space will not only give students the chance to interact with real, live patients, but will make it possible for the university to provide speech/hearing services, health care and dental care to thousands of Mankato-area residents, Retherford said during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

It will also bring the two College of Allied Health and Nursing departments together into one easy-to-find location.

While Minnesota State Mankato currently has a dental clinic, it is in the basement of Morris Hall. Rehabilitation services is based out of Armstrong Hall. While the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic has two reserved spaces, the dental clinic has none, which means students must buy parking passes for their clients.

In comparison, the new building will have a dedicated parking lot, as well as pick-up and drop-off areas. It is intended to be a “one-stop shop” for the college's patients and will have a common waiting room and shared consultation rooms.

For health and nursing faculty whose offices will not be moving, the new building will have shared meeting rooms and collaborative work areas, Retherford said. The School of Nursing, now based out of Wissink Hall, will move its clinical skills and simulation labs into the new, more spacious facility.

Five general-use classrooms will serve the entire college as lecture halls. The building also will have a shared CPR/Skills Lab and Home Health Lab, which will be open to multiple departments, according to bonding documents.

Construction of Minnesota State Mankato's clinic is expected to wrap up by 2016. The new 59,100-square-foot, three-story facility will be on Warren Street north of the Taylor Center and east of Ford Hall.

Its completion will allow the university to continue working closely with the nursing college's many community partners, which include Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, the Mankato Clinic, Open Door Dental Clinic, Harry Meyering Center, Give the Kids a Smile Program and the Developmental Behavioral Clinic.

Funding for the project is included in the Minnesota Jobs Bill, signed into law this May. The new piece of legislation also sets aside $14.5 million in state money for upgrades to the Mankato civic center, which is used by Minnesota State Mankato's hockey teams.

State Sen. Kathy Sheran said during the groundbreaking that the new facility promotes affordability by not only by making services available to residents for less, but by making it possible for students to log clinical hours while on campus. Services at the clinics cost roughly half what they would at regular clinics, according to Minnesota State Mankato's website.

The more spacious building also will make it possible for the university to expand health-care programs and start training more students, hopefully addressing a looming shortage in the number of health-care providers available throughout the state.

State Rep. Clark Johnson, who serves on the state rural health advisory committee, said the new facility will increase the amount of outstate residents the college can serve on annually. It serves about 8,000 each year, Retherford said. She expects that number to increase once the new facility is built but could not say by how much.

Melissa Reinke, a senior in the Speech and Hearing & Rehabilitation Services department, said before the groundbreaking that the publicity surrounding the new facility could help drive numbers up. Its eye-catching design could also help.

“Maybe it will create more awareness in the community that there is this clinic they can have access to,” she said.

Tara Fruechte, one of Reinke's classmates, said it will help bring faculty and students together in one place.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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