KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Ala. Mental Hospitals To Close; La. Hospital Copes With Budget Cuts; D.C. Gets Mental Health System

The New York Times: Alabama Plans To Close Most Hospitals For Mentally Ill
Alabama will shut down most of its mental health hospitals by the spring of 2013 in a sweeping plan to cut costs and change how the state's psychiatric patients receive treatment, state officials announced on Wednesday. The decision to close four hospitals and lay off 948 employees is a bleak reminder of Alabama's shrinking budget. But it is also the latest example in a longstanding national effort among states to relocate mentally ill patients from government hospitals to small group homes and private hospitals (Brown, 2/16).

Reuters: After 37 Years, Washington D.C. Gets Mental Health System
The nation's capital regained control of its mental health system on Thursday when a federal judge approved a settlement in a 37-year-old class-action lawsuit, the mayor's office said. The District of Columbia's mental health system had been under court supervision since patients at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington's psychiatric center, accused the capital in 1974 of not providing enough community-based mental health services (2/16).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Plans Made To Shore Up Mental Health Services In New Orleans Despite Cuts
LSU two weeks ago announced $34 million in cuts to its public hospital system, with $15 million of them at the New Orleans hospital. ... Thursday's LSU statement said that even though the Interim Public Hospital will not have a dedicated detox unit, it can use "general medical beds" for patients who display symptoms of impending alcohol or drug withdrawal and who require medical detoxification (Eggler, 2/16).

The Baltimore Sun: Perkins Hospital Workers Rally For More Jobs
Workers at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup held a rally Wednesday to urge state lawmakers to add more jobs at the troubled mental facility where three patients were killed in a 14-month span. Gov. Martin O'Malley has included 93 additional jobs in his budget proposal, but workers and hospital leaders worry that that number might get pared down by nearly 30 as the state faces fiscal pressure. ... [Lamont Baker, a security attendant at Perkins] said having more workers makes the patients feel safer and prevents problems that may arise when patients are anxious (Walker, 2/15).

The Miami Herald: Small City Of Wilton Manors Sees A Big Rise In Suicides
Mental-health service providers say the city’s disproportionate number of 40- to 60-year-olds along with the economy and potential issues of sexuality may be among the causes. … An uptick in suicides has caught the attention of officials in Wilton Manors, who fear they may be dealing with more than a statistical aberration (Barszewski and Williams, 2/16). 

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