The Patrick administration announced three months ago that it would be closing Taunton State Hospital, moving most of its beds to the new state psychiatric hospital in Worcester.
Having toured the near-complete Worcester hospital, I can’t help but think that it will be a dramatic improvement for the mentally ill patients lucky enough to end up there, but the Taunton closing has brought protests on several fronts, including concerns that patients will be farther from their home communities.
The issue looks likely to re-ignite in the coming days in the state legislature, and the Boston Globe writes today that the state should not shutter Taunton without an independent analysis:
Such a study shouldn’t consume much time, but should answer lingering questions. Will the loss of the hospital leave a gap in mental health services from Brockton to Cape Cod, as critics contend? Or is it a meaningless geographic distinction in a statewide system, as the administration responds?
Does the closure represent a net loss of beds for people with acute mental illness? Not with a new state hospital coming on line in Worcester, say mental health officials. But critics contend that the total of 626 state beds remaining after Taunton closes is significantly lower than what the mental health department stated as its actual need as recently as 2004.
The outlook, according to the Globe:
Amendments aimed at saving the hospital are likely to crop up in this week’s debate on the House budget. And there may be even less appetite in the Senate for shuttering the facility. That may be unfortunate: If an independent analyst finds that patients can be treated as well or better in other hospitals, the state should move quickly to close Taunton. The Legislature should compel such a study and support its recommendations.
Readers? Yes? No?