Budget cuts continue to be felt across the country. We recently reported on the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) closing one of its four psychiatric hospitals, which will eliminate 169 beds from an already taxed system. Now, Alabama’s DMH is planning to shut down four of its own mental health hospitals by the spring of 2013.
According a story in the New York Times, the decision to dismiss over 900 employees was made to cut costs and “change how the state’s psychiatric patients receive treatment.” The step was also attributed to a “national effort” among states to relocate mentally ill patients from government hospitals to small group homes and private hospitals.
Over the last 20 years, Alabama has closed 10 other mental health treatment centers and has reduced financing for mental health services by 36% since 2009. Near-term projections are even more dismal, as the state legislature told the New York Times that mental health budgets could be cut an additional 25% in 2013.
By the time the closures are complete, the state will have just two state mental health hospitals left. So where will the remaining 500-plus patients go? The plan is that all of them will get treatment at various group homes and community centers, but will those facilities will be able to accommodate? That is yet to be seen.