From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2013 Edition
Another victory was achieved for those affected by mental illness in Southeastern Massachusetts through this year’s state budget. MNA nurses and advocates worked with the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives to guarantee funding for the remaining 45 continuing care beds at Taunton State Hospital through June 30, 2014.
While the House of Representatives’ budget funded the continued operation of Taunton State Hospital, it was only provided through December, when the Mental Health Advisory Commission formed in last year’s budget submits its report on the mental health system to the Legislature. The original intent of that report was to provide detailed information that the Legislature can use for future funding and policy decisions. Sens. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and John Keenan (D-Quncy) filed a budget amendment to extend the funding through June 2014 so that the final report could be used as a resource while formulating the state budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in July 2014. Their budget amendment received more than 16 co-sponsors and was adopted by the Senate.
Additionally, Pacheco and Keenan were successful in securing passage of other budget amendments aimed at keeping mental health services at Taunton State Hospital. One directs the Mental Health Advisory Commission to study the potential future use of the Cain building at the state hospital to determine how to best meet the mental health needs in the commonwealth. The recommendations will look at development of three pilot programs: a state-operated pilot crisis stabilization unit which would be fully operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week; a pilot program for non-violent offenders with mental health diagnoses currently serving their sentences in state or county correctional facilities; and a pilot program for females who are committed for substance abuse detoxification and are evaluated as having co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders. This would allow for the continued access to care in Southeastern Massachusetts while also targeting which services are needed most.
Thanks to the continued work of MNA nurses and the support of our friends in the Legislature, the final version of the budget included these important provisions from the Senate. Taunton State Hospital will continue to provide treatment for 45 patients and further study will take place to determine the need for services in Southeastern Massachusetts.