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Hospital wins OK

House members gave overwhelming approval to allow Fargo, N.D.-based Prairie St. John's to build a psychiatric hospital in Woodbury.

On a 125-8 vote, representatives allow the facility construction despite a statewide moratorium on new hospital beds. It would provide room for 66 patients - down from the 144-bed original request - for youths under 21 years of age.

"The crisis is now," Rep. Marsha Swails, DFL-Woodbury, told her colleagues. "We have people who do not have a place to go for this type of treatment."

Twin Cities youths often must go to North Dakota, or even Canada, to get mental health.

"This is both damaging to the families and the children being treated," Rep. Julie Bunn, DFL-Lake Elmo, said.

A lawmaker representing an area near the company's Fargo home endorsed the Woodbury plan.

"I have seen the quality of work they provide first hand," Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said.

A similar Senate bill is stalled in committee, but Swails said she hopes her provision gets tacked onto another bill that is moving ahead.

"I'm an optimist," Swails said. "When there's this kind of overwhelming support, there will be a way to get this built."

State Capitol reporters Scott Wente and Marisa Helms contributed to this report.