A team of experts tabbed by lawmakers to study two state-run children’s mental hospitals charges that officials in the former governor’s administration subverted the group’s recommendation to keep the facilities open.|
Composed of psychiatrists, pediatricians, mental health organizations and others, the group concluded that private providers are not ready to fill the gap that would be left by closing the facilities — the 48-bed Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton and the 16-bed children’s unit at the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion.
Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine last month proposed closing those facilities, a move that would save the state almost $17 million over the next two fiscal years. A last-ditch rally saved the facilities from closure last year. But the state’s biennial budget deficit since has climbed to $4.2 billion, spurring a renewed call for cuts.
In the wake of last year’s debate, lawmakers appointed a 30-member committee to study the children’s mental facilities and to make recommendations on whether to close them. The group produced an 18-page report forwarded to the state Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services in late November.
A revised, final report went to Kaine’s office Dec. 18, the day he announced his budget proposal.
The final document downplays the importance of the Commonwealth Center and the Southwestern Institute and suggests private facilities are more prepared to take on severe cases than they truly are, team members said.
“That report was completely changed,” said Vicki Hardy-Murrell, director of the Virginia Federation of Families, part of the advocacy group Mental Health America. “The General Assembly … cannot make an informed decision if the information that they received is skewed.”
Read the full story at NewsVirginian.com.
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