AUGUSTA (AP) – The opening of the state’s new $33 million psychiatric hospital to replace the aging Augusta Mental Health Institute has been delayed again, officials said.

The 92-bed Riverview Psychiatric Center now might not open until the end of February, said state General Services Director Elaine Clark. It is being built on a lot adjacent to AMHI.

If that estimate holds true, patients will move into the new hospital six months later than the state initially anticipated when the Legislature approved the project in 2000.

Clark said she is confident the latest projection is realistic.

“It’s not an optimistic schedule,” she said.

Ned Jewell, financial manager of the project, said the delays have cost the state an estimated $60,000, but added that the project remains within the $33 million budget approved by lawmakers.

Clark said remaining work includes cleaning the building; changing door hinges, handles and other equipment that were viewed as potential suicide hazards by state licensing inspectors during a Nov. 7 tour; changing an emergency paging system; ordering treatment equipment; and installing unbreakable covers for night lights, among other details.

Louis Dorogi, state director of licensing and certification, said the hospital must obtain state inspectors’ approval before it can be licensed to open.

He said federal inspectors’ certification is needed before patients there would be eligible for Medicaid and Medicare funding of their care.

Mental health officials said they need about five weeks to train the hospital’s clinical staff in the new building.

Marya Faust, project manager for the state Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, said doing the job right is a good investment of time.

“I think we just want the best possible building and that’s what we’re trying to get,” Faust said.

AP-ES-11-22-03 1213EST

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