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Holly Hill To Provide Mental Services for Wake's Poor

Posted December 4, 2006

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— After two years of searching for a partner to provide short-term psychiatric care for indigent patients, Wake County officials on Monday decided to negotiate an agreement with Holly Hill Hospital.

The state-run Dorthea Dix Hospital has for years treated poor patients needing mental health services. But the hospital is scheduled to close next year, and county officials hoped WakeMed, Rex Healthcare or Duke University Health Services would propose operating a short-term crisis center to pick up the slack.

"The three hospitals had the ability to bring a more total health care picture. Clearly, people suffering from mental illness have medical problems as well," Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

But none of the hospitals came up with a proposal because of concerns about bearing the cost of treatment. Instead, the hospitals supported a $10 million plan by Holly Hill Hospital that would add 44 beds to the private psychiatric facility in Raleigh for indigent care.

While many mental health advocates say a 10-year agreement with Holly Hill is a step in the right direction, they said it's not enough.

"There's a whole class of people they are turning away, and that's not a good thing," said Ann Akland, president of the Wake County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The county needs more inpatient beds, and the proposal also doesn't cover patients with Medicaid, Akland said. She said she hopes area hospitals will have a change of heart and open psychiatric units.

"There still aren't beds in Wake for people that only have Medicaid -- that's their only type of insurance," she said.

Kent Goddard, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 17, said he worries where he would go for care if he needs it after Dix Hospital closes. The 59-year-old has been hospitalized there three times in the past.

"We need hospitalization. We need someplace for crisis intervention something to stabilize us," Goddard said.

County officials agreed that Holly Hill is only part of the solution and that they still have to identify gaps in service. Holly Hill administrators will create an advisory committee to provide recommendations about services.

Raleigh is the only metropolitan area in North Carolina without a partner to provide psychiatric services. More than 15 counties in central and eastern North Carolina also have arrangements with general hospitals to provide such services to patients.After two years of searching for a partner to provide short-term psychiatric care for indigent patients, Wake County officials on Monday decided to negotiate an agreement with Holly Hill Hospital.

The state-run Dorthea Dix Hospital has for years treated poor patients needing mental health services. But the hospital is scheduled to close next year, and county officials hoped WakeMed, Rex Healthcare or Duke University Health Services would propose operating a short-term crisis center to pick up the slack.

"The three hospitals had the ability to bring a more total health care picture. Clearly, people suffering from mental illness have medical problems as well," Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

But none of the hospitals came up with a proposal because of concerns about bearing the cost of treatment. Instead, the hospitals supported a $10 million plan by Holly Hill Hospital that would add 44 beds to the private psychiatric facility in Raleigh for indigent care.

While many mental health advocates say a 10-year agreement with Holly Hill is a step in the right direction, they said it's not enough.

"There's a whole class of people they are turning away, and that's not a good thing," said Ann Akland, president of the Wake County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The county needs more inpatient beds, and the proposal also doesn't cover patients with Medicaid, Akland said. She said she hopes area hospitals will have a change of heart and open psychiatric units.

"There still aren't beds in Wake for people that only have Medicaid -- that's their only type of insurance," she said.

Kent Goddard, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 17, said he worries where he would go for care if he needs it after Dix Hospital closes. The 59-year-old has been hospitalized there three times in the past.

"We need hospitalization. We need someplace for crisis intervention something to stabilize us," Goddard said.

County officials agreed that Holly Hill is only part of the solution and that they still have to identify gaps in service. Holly Hill administrators will create an advisory committee to provide recommendations about services.

Raleigh is the only metropolitan area in North Carolina without a partner to provide psychiatric services. More than 15 counties in central and eastern North Carolina also have arrangements with general hospitals to provide such services to patients.
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