Senate president concerned by Patrick’s plan to close Taunton Hospital
Taunton State Hospital once had 169 beds; a compromise would have allowed for it to stay open with 45 beds.
A day after Governor Deval Patrick vetoed $5.1 million that would have kept Taunton State Hospital open in a reduced capacity, Senate President Therese Murray said that the lack of such beds in Southeastern Massachusetts remains a concern.
But she stopped short of calling for an override of the veto, which the governor made on Sunday.
“That’ll be a discussion we’ll have with the members,” she said. “We have a concern that there are no mental health beds in Southeastern Massachusetts.”
Lawmakers from the Southeastern part of the state have repeatedly warned that closing Taunton Hospital would jeopardize the safety of patients moved out of the facility and into community settings, while possibly overburdening emergency rooms at regular hospitals.
Supporters of keeping Taunton State open also say that moving patients to a new hospital in Worcester or to Tewksbury would be disruptive to families, many of whom might be unable to easily visit their loved ones.
When presented with those arguments on Sunday, Patrick said: “This isn’t about having a facility in every region. It’s about having community opportunities in every region.”
The House and Senate reached a compromise in their budget negotiations to provide a limited amount of funding for the hospital that would allow it to remain in operation with 45 inpatient mental health beds, down from 169.
An independent assessment of the state’s mental health treatment capacity and its needs was to be conducted over the next six months.
Patrick, however, said that closing Taunton State was in line with his administration’s support for treating more patients in their homes or in smaller, community-based settings.
The budget provides an additional $10 million for community-based services, and the governor agreed to an independent review of the state’s mental health system.
“Well, if you have to be in a locked facility, there won’t be one,” Murray said.
“So you can have access, but the emergency rooms are sending people home, and they’re not able to take care of them, so it will be a discussion we’ll have.”
If the veto is to be overridden by lawmakers, the House would have to act first.
Murray, however, would not say whether she preferred to see the $5.1 million for Taunton State Hospital restored to the budget.