ENID, Okla. — Ground officially was broken for the new Robert M. Greer Center on Friday afternoon, with multiple state and leaders present.

“It’s definitely been a long project, but we’ve been thankful for the support of so many people involved with the project,” said Justin Brown, director of Oklahoma Department of Human Services and secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives. “Ultimately, it came about because the prior buildings had been aging. … We’re looking forward to seeing this new center for the benefit of the people that we serve.”

Greer Center opened in 1989. In 2019, DHS confirmed it had set aside $16 million for the Greer Center, and a bill passed in May 2020 allotted $1 million for debt service obligations for the construction project, which will replace the buildings located in the center that were built in the 1980s, Brown said.

Greer Center is the only privately operated, state-owned treatment facility in Oklahoma “that exclusively serves adults who are dually diagnosed as having intellectual disability as well as mental illness,” according to Liberty of Oklahoma Corp., a part of Liberty Healthcare Corp., which took over the Greer Center in 2000.

Though it’s intended to be a short-term treatment program to stabilize and reintegrate clients, the Greer Center, which is located on the campus of the now-closed Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, also supports those who require longer-term care and treatment when needed.

Hugh Sage, Greer Center director and executive director of Liberty of Oklahoma, said plans began for the replacement of the center’s buildings after NORCE closed in 2014.The new and renovated facilities should “hopefully” be completed in about 18 months, said Brown, who feels that Liberty employees who work at the Greer Center will be able to “provide even better care in a better facility.”

“It’s time to move forward, and we’re looking forward to seeing this new center for the benefit of the people that we serve,” Brown said.

Sage said it would have cost more to update the decades-old facilities rather than build anew, and he is looking forward to the completion of the project.

“I look forward to completion dates and ribbon cuttings,” Sage said. “It’s been needed for a long time, and thanks to God and these folks, it has been made possible by the taxpayers of this state.”

Sen. Paul Racino, Sen. Roland Pederson, Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, Rep. Chad Caldwell, Lisa Powell with Enid Regional Development Alliance, city of Enid leaders, Oklahoma DHS staff and representatives from Rick Scott Construction and Mass Architects were among those in attendance at the ceremony.

“To be involved and invited into the process as we recognize and break ground as we start this new chapter — it’s just wonderful,” said Mayor George Pankonin. “This facility has been here for a long time, but it’s very rundown, so to have a new start to keep this population safe and employed in our community is just really important to me.”

Article by: Kelci McKendrick – ENE 4.23.21

Photo by: Billy Hefton – ENE