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Legislators back Taunton Hospital override

Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, said on Monday that she is confident her colleagues in the House will support a vote to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of a $5.1 million item to keep 45 beds at Taunton State Hospital.

Patrick signed the fiscal 2013 budget on Sunday, and he remains committed to closing the 169-bed facility in Taunton in favor of moving acute care patients to a new hospital in Worcester along with another in Tewksbury. He vetoed a $5.1 million budget line item included by the Legislature to keep 45 beds open in Taunton State, while an independent study is to be conducted on the state’s mental health system.

The override would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House, before the Senate has an opportunity to vote on the override.

“I made calls yesterday the minute I heard of the veto,” said Haddad, who serves as Speaker Pro Tempore. “Today (Monday) I sent in personal letters. Now, I’m organizing the rest of the southeastern Massachusetts delegation and anyone else in the House who wants to sign the request for the override. This isn’t just about Taunton. It’s about fairness to the entire southeastern Massachusetts area. We are not asking for more than anything that’s available in any other section of the state.”

Those who support keeping Taunton State open say that mental health services in the state are already strained with a lack of available acute care beds across Massachusetts, forcing hospitals to discharge patients going through mental health crises. But Patrick continues to stand by a mental health care system with an increased reliance on community-based services, with the budget Patrick signed providing an additional $10 million for community-based services.

“I know this is a hard decision for many people I care about and I am moved by the support for the hospital, but mental health experts and advocates support this decision and are as committed as we are to moving away from institutionalized settings toward an environment that emphasizes community support for patients,” Patrick said.

Advocates for keeping Taunton State open believe it’s important to have a major mental health facility in every region of the state, but Patrick disagrees.

Patrick, however, did not veto a $100,000 request for an independent study of the mental health system in the state. The study request came as part of the opposition to Taunton State closing.

Haddad said she believes the vote on the override will take place next week at the earliest, after the House deals with amendments to the budget sent back by Patrick.

“I expect it to pass,” Haddad said.