Mass. planning to close Taunton State Hospital 

The Patrick administration is planning to close Taunton State Hospital, citing budget constraints and the opening of a new psychiatric facility in Worcester.

Department of Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm informed workers and other staffers at the psychiatric hospital on Tuesday of the decision to shutter the 169-bed facility by year's end.

The administration said the hospital is antiquated compared to the state of the art Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, which is set to open this summer.

Taunton Hospital patients will be transferred to either the new Worcester facility or Tewksbury State Hospital, or discharged to a community facility where appropriate, officials said.

Gov. Deval Patrick said no jobs will be lost, and the state will maintain its total 626 statewide bed capacity.

"We understand that this announcement will impact the community of Taunton," Patrick said in a statement. "We look forward to working collaboratively with the city during the implementation of this transfer and closure plan."

Under the plan, 124 of Taunton's inpatient beds will be consolidated into the new Worcester facility, which will have a total of 320 beds. Another 45 of Taunton's beds will be transferred to Tewksbury Hospital.

There are 410 employees at Taunton State Hospital and 426 employees at the old Worcester State Hospital, which is slated to close in July when the new facility opens. All current employees will have job opportunities at the new Worcester facility, Patrick said.

Patrick also said the state is committed to keeping several group living residences in the Taunton area.

Karen Coughlin, a nurse who has worked at Taunton State Hospital for 28 years, said she and other workers were caught off-guard by the announcement.

"We were completely blindsided by this. We really had not anticipated this. We are really disappointed," said Coughlin, who is also vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Coughlin said she was still worried that the decision will mean far fewer local resources for those in need of psychiatric care in the southeast area of the state. She said there are currently 173 patients at the Taunton facility.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby said the move is overdue.

"This closure promotes our shift away from antiquated institutional facilities across health care settings toward an environment that emphasizes community supports for patients instead," Bigby said in a statement.

Patrick said patients will be moved out of Taunton State Hospital in phases throughout the closure process. Patients will have the option to be discharged a community placement; the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital; or be transferred to Tewksbury State Hospital.

The announcement comes as Gov. Deval Patrick prepares to unveil his proposed state budget for the 2013 fiscal year that begins July 1. Patrick has already warned that the budget will include cuts along with some proposals for additional revenues.

The administration has already outlined plans to raise $260 million in new revenue, including a 50-cent-per-pack hike in the cigarette tax and applying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax to candy and soda.

The release of Patrick's spending plan will kick off several months of debate on the budget, with the Massachusetts House and Senate proposing their own budget plans before sending a final compromise spending plan back to Patrick.

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