By and large, the budget that went public after midnight today and was approved and sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire a few hours later is not all that different from the Democrats’ last offer a week ago. It avoids major cuts to disability and welfare benefits that Republicans had sought, it doesn’t cut public schools or colleges, and it relies on a $238 million accounting trick.
But there are differences, and here’s a big one for Pierce County: The budget doesn’t call for closing any wards at Western State Hospital.
Six months ago the hospital was proposing jettisoning some 150 patients into community facilities, and even as recently as last week, Democrats were still calling for releasing about 60 patients suffering from dementia into nursing homes and other local facilities. A state psychiatric hospital isn’t the place for patients with dementia and traumatic brain injuries, hospital officials say.
Senate Republicans rejected the plan, which would have saved $4 million for the state general fund. A local lawmaker, GOP Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood, championed the wards.
Opponents managed to keep the cut out of the final budget.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether that is the final word. A union official at the hospital said the Department of Social and Health Services doesn’t have the authority to close the wards on its own, without legislative approval. I have a question in to DSHS.
Western State Hospital CEO Jess Jamieson said he plans to review the issue with superiors at DSHS, but said as far as he knows the hospital would stay at 557 civil-commitment beds.
“That’s the capacity that’s currently in place, and unless I’m advised through some authority otherwise, that’s the bed capacity I’m going to maintain at the hospital.”