2012

Selection of Wall-to-Wall News Coverage from Our Press Release on the DMH Announcement of Taunton Closing

01.25.2012

State to close Taunton facility for mentally ill

By David Abel  | Globe Staff  

After more than 150 years of housing mentally ill patients, Taunton State Hospital will close its doors, and its remaining patients will be sent to other facilities by the end of the year, state officials said yesterday.

The closing will help pay for a new hospital for the mentally ill in Worcester, which is scheduled to open this summer and may house some of the 169 patients still in Taunton, state mental health officials said.

Other patients will move into their own apartments or the equivalent of group homes linked to an array of support services, under the state’s Community First program, the officials said.

“We understand that this announcement will impact the community of Taunton,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “By closing the Taunton facility, we are maintaining this administration’s commitment to Community First.’’

But advocates for the mentally ill and officials from the nurses union decried the closing of the hospital. They pointed out that it is one of six remaining state mental health hospitals and that the system would have a net loss of 125 beds since fiscal 2010, when the state closed Westborough State Hospital.

“This is a cold-hearted and dangerous decision that will have devastating consequences for the mentally ill in our state,’’ said Karen Coughlin, a nurse at Taunton State and vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “There are not and have not been enough beds or services in the system for years. This decision will only exacerbate a long-standing crisis.’’

State officials said 124 of the beds will be transferred to the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital and 25 will be moved to Tewksbury State Hospital.

After the closing, 626 beds will remain in the state mental health system, down from 831 beds in fiscal 2007, state officials and advocates said.

Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm, who has seen her agency’s budget cut by about 8 percent over the past three years, said many of the patients who have been discharged as a result of fewer beds available are now living independently, with support or supervision in the community.

Many of the patients remaining at what in 1854 opened as the State Lunatic Hospital would probably have been discharged before the end of the year, Leadholm said. On average, 70 percent of state mental health patients are released within 180 days, she said.

“We’re maintaining the same capacity to meet the needs of people who require very intensive services,’’ she said.

Leadholm said that none of the 390 full-time employees in Taunton will lose their jobs and that the department will offer them positions at the new hospital in Worcester or others.

She added that her staff would work with patients to keep them as close to their homes as possible.

“I think it is always sad to hear bad news,’’ Leadholm said. “We will offer the support to help people understand what this will mean for them. The geography is something we will need to address.’’

Advocates for the mentally ill, however, questioned whether the Department of Mental Health will have sufficient money and staff to aid patients living outside the hospitals.

“I think what is particularly disturbing is that it will have a ripple effect down into the community,’’ said Guy Beales, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, which is based in Woburn. “Those most in need of hospital services are going to end up in emergency rooms and put pressure on local resources, which are already extremely strained from previous cuts of state resources.’’

Nursing union officials said the problems are already visible in emergency rooms, where psychiatric patients sometimes wait as long as 72 hours for a placement in a state hospital.

They said facilities such as Taunton State were already over capacity.

“This has gone beyond an issue of funding and finances,’’ Coughlin said. “This is a moral and ethical issue of human rights and common decency.’’

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.


State Announces Plans to Close Taunton State Hospital

January 24, 2012 5:58 PM

TAUNTON, MA – Taunton State Hospital is set to close down, raising concerns among mental health advocates who claim the state’s system is already strained.

The state plans to move 120 of the 169 beds at Taunton to the new Worcester State Hospital. The other 45 beds will move to Tewksbury State Hospital. Officials say the move will save about $20 million.

The Taunton State Hospital was one of only six mental health facilities in the state to care for people suffering from mental illness.

The Department of Mental Health’s decision is not sitting well with the leaders of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Lana Jones reports

“This is a cold hearted and dangerous decision that will have devastating consequences for the mentally ill in our state,” said Karen Coughlin, RN, a nurse at Taunton State Hospital and vice president of the MNA/NNU. “We have no mental health care safety net in Massachusetts. There are not, and have not been, enough beds or services in the system for years. This decision will only exacerbate a long standing crisis. People will continue to go without care, crime will increase, homelessness will increase, more people will end up in the corrections system and many more will commit suicide. This closure along with other cuts to programs and services represents the state’s continued abandonment of the mentally ill in our society.”

Coughlin would then go on to conclude, “This has gone beyond an issue of funding and finances. This is a moral and ethical issue of human rights and common decency.”


Taunton State Hospital informs nurses the facility will close by year’s end

By Gerry Tuoti

Staff Writer

Taunton —  The Patrick Administration announced plans Tuesday to consolidate mental health services, resulting in the closure of Taunton State Hospital before year’s end.

Veteran nurse Karen Coughlin, who has worked at Taunton State Hospital for 28 years, said the announcement leaves her “disillusioned” with the way the state treats the mentally ill.

“They said it’s not based on clinical need but on appropriations and money,” she said. “It’s absolutely sinful.”

State Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm met in person with Taunton State Hospital nurses Tuesday morning to inform them that the hospital will be closed by Dec. 31. The state cited budget constraints and the opening of a new facility in Worcester.

“We knew we would have this larger facility that we need to fund within our appropriation,” Leadholm said. “By making the decision to close Taunton, we are realigning the state capacity to maintain 626 in-patient beds.”

She said she understands the announcement may be difficult for people to digest.

“I do recognize that geographically people are responding to the change that Taunton State Hospital will close,” the commissioner said.

The state held public meetings last year to discuss a potential consolidation of mental health services.

“It’s devastating,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “The system is already in shambles.”

The Nurses Association represents most of the hospital’s employees; all of its registered nurses, psychologists, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals.

The majority of the patients in Taunton will be moved to Tewksbury State Hospital and the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, which is scheduled to open this summer.

“To achieve the opening of this state-of-the-art facility, we had to take look at the necessary operating budget to run it,” said Paulette Song, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Department of Mental Health.

The state, she said, will soon start relocating patients from Taunton State Hospital. There will be 124 patients moved to Worcester, and 45 to Tewksbury.

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said he is doing all he can to fight the plans to close Taunton State Hospital. He said he is assembling a coalition of other legislators and political leaders and is calling for a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick.

“This is the only facility in the southeast, the Cape and the islands,” he said. “The idea that 100 percent of the beds would be shifted out of the Southeast region is absolutely outrageous and doesn’t speak highly of the administration in terms of fairness and equity or in terms of distribution of services throughout the region.”

The Patrick Administration announced plans Tuesday to consolidate mental health services, resulting in the closure of Taunton State Hospital before year’s end.

Veteran nurse Karen Coughlin, who has worked at Taunton State Hospital for 28 years, said the announcement leaves her “disillusioned” with the way the state treats the mentally ill.

“They said it’s not based on clinical need but on appropriations and money,” she said. “It’s absolutely sinful.”

State Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm met in person with Taunton State Hospital nurses Tuesday morning to inform them that the hospital will be closed by Dec. 31. The state cited budget constraints and the opening of a new facility in Worcester.

“We knew we would have this larger facility that we need to fund within our appropriation,” Leadholm said. “By making the decision to close Taunton, we are realigning the state capacity to maintain 626 in-patient beds.”

She said she understands the announcement may be difficult for people to digest.

“I do recognize that geographically people are responding to the change that Taunton State Hospital will close,” the commissioner said.

The state held public meetings last year to discuss a potential consolidation of mental health services.

“It’s devastating,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “The system is already in shambles.”

The Nurses Association represents most of the hospital’s employees; all of its registered nurses, psychologists, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals.

The majority of the patients in Taunton will be moved to Tewksbury State Hospital and the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, which is scheduled to open this summer.

“To achieve the opening of this state-of-the-art facility, we had to take look at the necessary operating budget to run it,” said Paulette Song, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Department of Mental Health.

The state, she said, will soon start relocating patients from Taunton State Hospital. There will be 124 patients moved to Worcester, and 45 to Tewksbury.

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said he is doing all he can to fight the plans to close Taunton State Hospital. He said he is assembling a coalition of other legislators and political leaders and is calling for a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick.

“This is the only facility in the southeast, the Cape and the islands,” he said. “The idea that 100 percent of the beds would be shifted out of the Southeast region is absolutely outrageous and doesn’t speak highly of the administration in terms of fairness and equity or in terms of distribution of services throughout the region.”

Song stressed that with the new facility in Worcester opening, the Department of Mental Health will not see a decrease in its number of in-patient beds during the consolidation process.

She also said that there will not be a  reduction in the number of jobs. Coughlin, however, said that while the total number of jobs won’t change, the location will. That means the jobs will likely be filled by new people, the nurse added.

Taunton State Hospital currently employs 390 people, 36 percent of whom live in the city of Taunton.

“It is fairly typical that they say this is not a reduction of force and that people will have jobs, but the fact of the matter is the people who work here live in the Southeastern region, Coughlin said.

Taunton State Hospital cares for patients with severe mental diagnoses across the spectrum, including those classified as “criminally insane.”

“This state has a dramatic shortage of psychiatric beds,” Schildmeier said. “The system is on overload. Taunton State Hospital has 175 beds. Where are these patients going to go?”

The closure, Coughlin predicts, will hurt the region’s patients.

“They are losing an in-patient facility where they can receive quality care in the community in which they live,” she said. “They will now have to be placed in Worcester or Tewksbury. Our fear is the patients will lose some of those familial supports they need when they are in the hospital.”

Schildmeier voiced a similar concern.

“Shifting these beds to other places will mean poorer quality care, people will have to wait longer for care,” Schildmeier said. “This is absolutely devastating to the commonwealth.”

Leadholm said the state will work with patients and their families to determine the best placement for them.

The five group living services facilities on the Taunton State Hospital campus will remain in the Taunton area, the state said.

“I think as we work through the process, the administration will continue to work with the actual area of Taunton and see what we could do,” Leadholm said.

Contact Gerry Tuoti at gtuoti@tauntongazette.com

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DMH shifts patients to Worcester

Taunton State Hospital to close by year’s endBy John J. Monahan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

 

jmonahan@telegram.com

The planned closing is expected to be reflected in the proposed 2013 budget that Gov. Deval L. Patrick will unveil today.

BOSTON —  Taunton State Hospital will close by the end of the year and most of its 169 patients will be transferred to the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, a Department of Mental Health official said yesterday.

Closing the hospital, slated to be completed by Dec. 31, will not result in any reductions in Taunton State Hospital’s 410 employees, all of whom will be offered job opportunities at other facilities, including Worcester, the DMH said

Paulette Song, spokeswoman for DMH, confirmed yesterday that Taunton State Hospital will close by Dec. 31, and that 124 patients from that facility will be transferred to the new $302 million Worcester hospital that is scheduled to open this summer. An additional 45 patients at Taunton will be transferred to the 168-year-old Tewksbury State Hospital.

Patients will also be evaluated by their families and treatment teams to determine whether discharge to a community placement is appropriate.

“This is a cold-hearted and dangerous decision that will have devastating consequences for the mentally ill in our state,” said Karen Coughlin, a nurse at Taunton hospital and vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Massachusetts Nurses United.

“We have no mental health care safety net in Massachusetts. There are not, and have not been, enough beds or services in the system for years,” she said.

“This decision will only exacerbate a long-standing crisis,” she said, adding that needy patients will go without care and crime and homelessness will increase.

Ms. Song maintained, however, that once the Taunton hospital closes and Worcester is opened, the state will have the same number of inpatient psychiatric hospital beds, — 626 — in its system.

“We are not losing any inpatient bed capacity at all for the department,” she said, adding that there would be no reduction in the workforce either. “There will be employment opportunities at the new facility in Worcester and the Tewksbury State Hospital,” she said.

In addition, five residential living centers on the Taunton hospital grounds will remain in use.

The 320-bed Recovery Center was planned with 34 beds fewer than the combined total of Westboro State Hospital — already closed — and Worcester State Hospital, which it is replacing. The administration did not say how much, if any, money it is adding for community services for any inpatients beyond the usual number who will be discharged to be treated in community programs.

Ms. Song said the decision to close Taunton is linked to the need to fully fund operation of the new Worcester hospital. She said the plan to close the antiquated Taunton hospital was developed in part, “in order to identify the operating dollars for that new facility.”

Other members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association reacted with shock to the announcement. DMH officials told members of the union about the plan at a meeting yesterday.

The planned closing is expected to be reflected in the proposed 2013 budget that Gov. Deval L. Patrick will unveil today.

Union spokesman David Schildmeier said earlier plans called for the Worcester hospital to house patients from the former Medfield State Hospital and Westboro, but it never was envisioned as a receiving facility for the Taunton patients.

Mr. Schildmeier said the Worcester hospital does not have the capacity to take the additional patients from Taunton.

He said the mental health system in Central Massachusetts does not have enough beds for patients in the central region of the state, let alone taking patients from as far away as Southeastern Massachusetts. About 100 nurses and health care professionals work at the Taunton hospital.

He said the state is planning to save $20 million by closing the Taunton hospital, which is the same amount needed to open the Worcester hospital.

“The rationale for it is the money they have set aside for Worcester State Hospital. They need $20 million to open that, and that is the number they save,” he said. “The system is under-bedded already. There is not going to be room in the new hospital.”

Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, called the plan “outrageous.” It “would place Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and the Islands as the section of the state that has no services in this regard,” he told State House News Service. He vowed to “fight it all the way.”

Lee Hammel of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to this report.


Mass. planning to close Taunton State Hospital

By Associated Press  |   Tuesday, January 24, 2012  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Healthcare

The Patrick administration is planning to close Taunton State Hospital, citing budget constraints and the opening of a new psychiatric facility in Worcester.

Department of Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm informed workers and other staffers at the psychiatric hospital today of the decision to shutter the 169-bed facility by year’s end.

Paulette Song, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, confirmed the decision. The administration said the hospital is antiquated compared to the state of the art Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital. Some of the patients will be transferred to Worcester.

Song said the new facility can provide services in a much more comfortable setting. Other patients from Taunton could be transferred to Tewksbury State Hospital.

"This does not represent a reduction of workforce or a reduction of inpatient bed capacity," Song said, adding that the state will maintain its total 626 statewide bed capacity.

The Worcester hospital has 320 beds.

Karen Coughlin, a nurse who has worked at Taunton State Hospital for 28 years, said she and other workers were caught off-guard.

"We were completely blindsided by this. We really had not anticipated this. We are really disappointed," said Coughlin, who is also vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Coughlin said the decision will mean far fewer local resources for those in need of psychiatric care in the southeast area of the state. She said there are currently 173 patients at the Taunton facility.

Song, however, said the state will continue to maintain group living services in the Taunton area.

The announcement comes as Gov. Deval Patrick prepares to unveil his proposed state budget for the 2013 fiscal year that begins July 1. Patrick has already warned that the budget will include cuts along with some proposals for additional revenues.

The administration has already outlined plans to raise $260 million in new revenue, including a 50-cent-per-pack hike in the cigarette tax and applying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax to candy and soda.

The release of Patrick’s spending plan will kick off several months of debate on the budget, with the Massachusetts House and Senate proposing their own budget plans before sending a final compromise spending plan back to Patrick.


WBZ-AM 1030

State Announces Plans to Close Taunton State Hospital

January 24, 2012 5:58 PM

TAUNTON, MA – Taunton State Hospital is set to close down, raising concerns among mental health advocates who claim the state’s system is already strained.

The state plans to move 120 of the 169 beds at Taunton to the new Worcester State Hospital. The other 45 beds will move to Tewksbury State Hospital. Officials say the move will save about $20 million.

The Taunton State Hospital was one of only six mental health facilities in the state to care for people suffering from mental illness.

The Department of Mental Health’s decision is not sitting well with the leaders of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Lana Jones reports

“This is a cold hearted and dangerous decision that will have devastating consequences for the mentally ill in our state,” said Karen Coughlin, RN, a nurse at Taunton State Hospital and vice president of the MNA/NNU. “We have no mental health care safety net in Massachusetts. There are not, and have not been, enough beds or services in the system for years. This decision will only exacerbate a long standing crisis. People will continue to go without care, crime will increase, homelessness will increase, more people will end up in the corrections system and many more will commit suicide. This closure along with other cuts to programs and services represents the state’s continued abandonment of the mentally ill in our society.”

Coughlin would then go on to conclude, “This has gone beyond an issue of funding and finances. This is a moral and ethical issue of human rights and common decency.”


WBUR-FM 90.9

January 24, 2012 | 3:26 PM | By Carey Goldberg

Breaking: Mass. To Close Taunton State Hospital, Move Beds Elsewhere

The Department of Mental Health plans to close Taunton State Hospital, one of the six state-run psychiatric hospitals in Massachusetts by the end of this year. The move is part of a plan to redistribute the placement of patients with chronic and severe mental illness as a large new state hospital opens in Worcester this summer.

Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Anna Chinappi said that department staffers, including Commissioner Barbara Leadholm, were in Taunton today to announce the plans for closure to the hospital staff.

The hospital’s 169 beds will be redistributed, she said: 120 to the new Worcester state hospital and 45 beds to Tewksbury State Hospital. The closure, she said, is part of “the realignment and redistribution” of the state mental health system’s 626 hospital beds — “which remain at 626 beds. This action does not represent a reduction in force,”

The Massachusetts Nurses Association decried the plan for closing Taunton State Hospital, saying it would hurt Massachusetts people with mental illness. An MNA press release quoted Karen Coughlin, a nurse at Taunton State and vice president of the association, as saying: “Our system has been operating well over full capacity for years. We can’t provide the care people need even with our facility open. The other issue is geography. We are now forcing patients and families to travel to Worcester, Tewksbury or out to Western Mass for their mental health care. It’s a travesty.”

But Commissioner Leadholm said in a phone interview that the closing frees up money for moving the beds to a far finer, brand new facility. Our conversation, lightly edited:

Why is Taunton State Hospital being closed?

The decision to close Taunton State Hospital really comes down to two important things.

This summer, we will be opening a new state-of-the-art psychiatric facility. It’s called the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital. This hospital has been in the planning stage and actual building stage for a number of years.

So for us to live within our appropriations and to keep the current inpatient capacity of 626 beds statewide, we need to draw up the operation dollars from the rest of the system, because the new hospital is larger. So we need to pull up 124 beds and the associated operating dollars to open the hospital this summer at full capacity. To operate 124 beds, it equals about $25 million. It’s the staff, it’s all the structural work, electricity — so it’s hard to know whether I should talk about dollars or beds. We’re basically taking 124 beds and the associated operating dollars and realigning the capacity into the new faciility.

Is Taunton one of your more old and decrepit facilities?

it is certainly one of our old facilities and the campus is expensive to operate, so by closing a hospital on a campus, it does allow us to get additional savings.

And what is the overarching realignment that this is part of?

The department is committed to a vision of a broad spectrum and continuum of services; it includes inpatient all the way through the community, and we actually call our community initiative “Community First.” Our commitment over many years now has been to really support people’s recovery, support people living in the community and also provide the necessary inpatient — what we call continuing care services — in our facilities.

What we were able to do in designing the new facility is to reflect the vision of recovery and community actually in the new hospital. So the physical structure replicates a small village. In the kind of place where people would sleep, there are individual rooms, individual bathrooms, and that’s the most restrictive setting.

As you move out from where people will have their individual room, you have a space for groups, for talking to family members, for socializing, and that’s just the unit itself. As you move further, that’s the neighborhood. So we have larger rooms. You might have some physical exercise equipment. And there’s actually a town green to reflect the New England community. We have a bank; we have a coffee shop. You can sit out on benches. It really is an attempt to have the physical surroundings support the patients.

http://www.statehousenews.com/public/logo.gif

 

DMH PLANS TO CLOSE TAUNTON HOSPITAL THIS YEAR CALLED “DANGEROUS”

By Kyle Cheney

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 24, 2012…..Taunton Hospital, a 169-bed state mental health facility, will be shuttered by the end of the year and its patients transferred to facilities in Worcester and Tewksbury, the Patrick administration announced Tuesday, describing the decision as an effort to cut costs in the mental health system and maintain the state’s 626 beds.

“The plan to close Taunton State Hospital and transition patients, families and staff to the [Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital] continues a necessary shift away from an institutional culture within antiquated facilities to one that uses anticipated savings to enhance community placements for consumers,” Barbara Leadholm, state commissioner of mental health, said in a letter to DMH staff. She added, “This plan not only achieves our fiscal goal of minimizing revenue loss to the state General Fund, it also mitigates the possibility of further reductions to other DMH services.”

The decision drew immediate outrage from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which called the impending closure of Taunton Hospital “cold hearted and dangerous.”

“We have no mental health care safety net in Massachusetts. There are not, and have not been, enough beds or services in the system for years.  This decision will only exacerbate a long standing crisis,” said Karen Coughlin, a nurse at Taunton State Hospital and vice president of the MNA. “People will continue to go without care, crime will increase, homelessness will increase, more people will end up in the corrections system and many more will commit suicide. This closure along with other cuts to programs and services represents the state's continued abandonment of the mentally ill in our society.”

The nurses’ association rejected the suggestion that the move to the Worcester facility – which is newly built and scheduled to open later this year – would preserve the number of beds already available for mental health patients. Rather, they argued the Worcester hospital was built to replace Westborough State Hospital, which was closed in 2010.

In a phone interview, Coughlin said DMH could have looked at ways of “spreading the wealth” around the state to prevent the closure of Taunton Hospital while still living within its budget.

“We understand budget constraints,” she said. “On the other hand, we recognize that there’s a crisis going on in the system right now. There actually aren’t enough beds to address the needs of the patients that are out there.”

Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) said the announced closure of the hospital isn’t a surprise to Bristol County lawmakers but that it would still present challenges for her city because many residents work at the facility and many patients are from the area.

“As we move forward we want to make sure that that people can keep their jobs … I also spoke to Commissioner Leadholm about Taunton having additional resources because they will be releasing some of the patients to community group homes,” she said. “We want to make sure that we are able to handle that caseload.”

Asked whether there was no chance to stave off the hospital’s closure, O’Connell said, “That seems to be the case. This has been on the chopping block for quite some time. It may be time that we have to face reality that it is going to close at the end of the year.”

In her letter, Leadholm argued that the state would “continue to serve adults, children, adolescents and families in our services with the utmost responsiveness, dignity and respect.”

“Preparing to move into a new hospital and closing an existing one is a significant undertaking and I acknowledge the challenges ahead. We must also acknowledge the remarkable accomplishment that this initiative represents,” she said, adding, “We look forward to working with union leadership and staff, consumers, family members and caregivers, state and municipal elected officials, and the mental health community throughout this time of transition.”

-END-


1/24/2012 http://www.statehousenews.com/public/logo.gif

SENATOR VOWS TO FIGHT “UNACCEPTABLE” CLOSURE OF TAUNTON HOSPITAL

By Kyle Cheney

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 24, 2012…..A state senator from Taunton vowed Tuesday to fight the Patrick administration’s move to close Taunton Hospital, a 169-bed mental health facility, by the end of the year and transfer its patients to other facilities.

“The reality is, this plan, if implemented would place southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and the Islands as the section of the state that has no services in this regard. It’s outrageous, what’s been proposed, not only from an economic development perspective and the impact it will have on the southeast region of the state, but the impact on services. That is unacceptable, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m going to fight it all the way,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton). “Rep. [Patricia] Haddad and I have requested a meeting with the governor and lieutenant governor on this issue. It’s just totally unacceptable that we would have one area of the state be sacrificed in terms of mental health services.”

In a phone interview, Pacheco said he had relayed his concerns to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and William Keating, both of whom, he said, voiced displeasure. He added that he intends to thwart the administration’s move during the upcoming budget season.

“What we’re talking about here is a budget fight,” he said. “We’ve got an administration that’s filing a budget that is seeking to have this plan of theirs implemented. That doesn’t mean the Legislature just sits back and says case closed. We have the opportunity to put our own view into this budget. I certainly am going to do that.”

Department of Mental Health officials announced the planned closure of Taunton Hospital earlier Tuesday, declaring their intention to move its 169 patients to facilities in Worcester and Tewksbury, as well as a smaller subset to community facilities in the Taunton area.

DMH Commissioner Barbara Leadholm described the move in a letter to staff as an effort to help the department live within its fiscal means and move patients from an antiquated facility to a more modern one. She also said the proposal includes no staffing reductions.

Leadholm told the News service that the region will still have access to a “full continuum of services that are state-operated”

“As individuals need access … we will assure they get that service as close to home as possible,” she said in a phone interview.

"The plan to close Taunton State Hospital and transition patients, families and staff to the [Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital] continues a necessary shift away from an institutional culture within antiquated facilities to one that uses anticipated savings to enhance community placements for consumers," Leadholm said in a letter to DMH staff announcing the closure. She added, "This plan not only achieves our fiscal goal of minimizing revenue loss to the state General Fund, it also mitigates the possibility of further reductions to other DMH services."

The closure is also opposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which ripped the move as “cold hearted” in a statement.

Pacheco sought last year to prevent the Patrick administration from closing Taunton Hospital, filing an amendment to the state budget that would’ve required proportional cuts across the state, rather than cuts that “disproportionately” affect one region of the state. The amendment passed the Senate but died during negotiations with the House.

Pacheco’s comments contrasted markedly with Taunton Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, who said it seemed that the closure of Taunton Hospital is a fait accompli.

“That seems to be the case,” she said. “This has been on the chopping block for quite some time. It may be time that we have to face reality that it is going to close at the end of the year.”

 

FPO