GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is teaming up with Spectrum Health‘s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to open a new children’s rehabilitation hospital in Grand Rapids.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Mary Free Bed Tuesday to tout state funding that will go toward the endeavor. The record $75.5 billion state budget lawmakers approved before the July 1 deadline includes the first $10 million of the $60 million project.

“As a society, kids health care is underfunded, and the state of Michigan has really stepped up,” Kent Riddle, CEO of Mary Free Bed, said at a press conference during the governor’s visit.

A rendering of the planned children’s rehabilitation hospital by Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health. (Courtesy)

Mary Free Bed Children’s Rehabilitation Center will replace the parking lot across the road from Mary Free Bed’s main campus, on the southeast corner of Wealthy Street and Jefferson Avenue SE. A skywalk over the street will connect the new hospital to Mary Free Bed’s main hospital.

A rendering of the planned children's rehabilitation hospital by Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health. (Courtesy)
A rendering of the planned children’s rehabilitation hospital by Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health. (Courtesy)

Riddle said the project will bring the first free-standing children’s rehabilitation hospital to Michigan. It would also be the ninth facility of its kind in the nation, helping kids with birth defects or recovering from illness or injury.

“We’re making Grand Rapids more of a destination for fantastic, world-class medical care,” Riddle said.

“Today is a great day for Grand Rapids, but it’s also a great day for every child that calls Michigan home,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said.

Bliss said she spent a great deal of her childhood at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor for rehabilitation that enabled her to walk. She said that’s why this project “is very near to my heart.”

“It’s a huge win for children and their families, as now children all over Michigan, including West Michigan, right here in their own backyard, have access to these vital health care and rehabilitation services,” Bliss said. “It’ll elevate our reputation as a world-class destination children’s rehabilitation hospital. And we are so proud that it will be right here in Grand Rapids.”

Dr. Doug Henry, a pediatric rehab physician at Mary Free Bed, said his stepdaughter suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“When children experience a serious illness injury or some sort of disability, that can be very devastating, also for the parents,” Henry said. “And they need specialized help.

“We’re already doing phenomenal things for children at Mary Free Bed, but we need a more kid-friendly environment,” he continued. “We need a lot more space to do it. With that, we can provide a deeper richer care for these kids and the families. This building will do that.”

Whitmer said that while touring Mary Free Bed’s main campus, she ran into a friend from Lansing who was visiting the hospital with her son.

“I think it just goes to say, every one of us knows someone who is going to benefit from this investment in Mary Free Bed,” Whitmer said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about the state budget during a visit to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, during which a new children's rehab facility was announced. (July 12, 2022)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about the state budget during a visit to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, during which a new children’s rehab facility was announced. (July 12, 2022)

Riddle said the hospital is a 50-50 partnership between Mary Free Bed and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“Today is really about collaboration, private and public collaboration and that is really what the spirit of today is about,” Riddle said.

“Miraculous things happen, lives are transformed, families are supported and futures are brighter when community collaboration takes place. Our mission to restore hope and freedom through rehabilitation is precisely what will happen here,” he concluded.

A rendering of the planned children's rehabilitation hospital by Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health. (July 12, 2022)
A rendering of the planned children’s rehabilitation hospital by Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health. (July 12, 2022)

Riddle said Mary Free Bed and Spectrum hope to secure the public and private funding needed for the hospital by next year and start construction on the two-year project at the end of 2023.

“We want to be known for the best quality of care, anywhere,” he said.

WHITMER TOUTS STATE BUDGET

Whitmer expects to sign the bipartisan budget supporting the project in the coming days. That spending plan will take effect Oct. 1.

“There’s a lot to celebrate in the work that we have done,” Whitmer said, pointing out that it does not raise taxes and includes investments in public safety, dental care for Medicaid, lead service line replacement, mental health facilities and staffing, workforce education programs, a new veterans home in Marquette, food and agriculture programs and Michigan’s Pure Michigan tourism campaign.

“Michiganders work hard. When we support their grit and determination with programs and investments that channel them effectively, there’s really no limit to what we can do,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also outlined the West Michigan projects the next budget will support, including:

  • A new amphitheater and this children’s hospital in Grand Rapids
  • Pipeline repairs in Holland Township
  • Kalamazoo river restoration and upgrades to Binder Park Zoo in the Battle Creek area
  • Redeveloping the Third Street Wharf and channel lighthouse in Muskegon
  • Water infrastructure improvements in Sparta and Lawton

“This budget really makes huge in delivering on the kitchen table fundamental issues by investing in people, unleashing Michigan’s potential and funding key projects… This budget makes a real difference in people’s lives,” Whitmer said.

—News 8’s Michael Oszust contributed to this report.