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Pat McCarthy, Paul Pastor, others say Western State Hospital cuts will cause problems in Pierce County

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Oct. 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
October 11, 2011 3:48 pm

The county executive and sheriff, along with County Councilman Dick Muri and Pierce County Community Connections director Helen Howell, are sending a letter today to Gov. Chris Gregoire opposing the downsizing of the Lakewood psychiatric hospital by 150 beds.

The county officials say the plan would “cause more problems that are even more expensive to solve,” particularly in Pierce County:

While 150 beds are slated to close, and only 10% of those are likely assigned to Pierce County, the reality over the years has been very different. A variety of factors continually lead to requests to be discharged to Pierce County regardless of the patient’s county of origin. We have always experienced a disparate impact when it comes to releasing patients from the state hospital.

The effects are compounded by the other cuts to mental health care being considered by state officials, they said:

The larger context of the proposed cuts paints a pretty dismal picture for Pierce County. At a time when the demand for services is increasing dramatically, many of the programs offered by Community Connections will be devastated by the DSHS proposed budget cuts.

State officials with the Department of Social and Health Services say the people in the five wards being targeted for closure have no business being in a state hospital.

Two of the wards are being used for the long-term care of people with dementia and brain damage. The other 90 or so patients have finished treatment but have no place to go. In both cases, the agency plans to use part of the money saved by the closures to find spots for them in communities.

Agencies have presented Gregoire with around $1.7 billion in new budget-cutting options. Patients at WSH cost the state $560 a day, the agency says.

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