Raleigh, N.C. — Some patients from Dorthea Dix Hospital say that plans to move them to a new state mental facility in Butner are going too quickly.
Construction on the $120-million Central Regional Hospital will be complete by mid January. Officials plan to close Dix in Raleigh and John Umstead Hospital in Butner and move their patients to Central by the end of February.
Sammie Young, 38, said he was nominated as a spokesman by fellow Dix patients who have serious concerns about the upcoming move.
"It's going to be a disaster, a major disaster of mental health in North Carolina," Young said.
Young has lived at Dix for five years, not for mental health reasons like most patients, but due to his physical needs. He was shot 10 years ago, leaving him paralyzed below the neck and needing a ventilator to breath.
"It's a nice place to be," Young said and praised Dix's "nice people."
Young said patients are concerned about abuse accusations and threats to accredidation that other state mental hospitals are facing. Patients worry about the staff training and safety hazards at the new facility.
"Despite these challenges that we're facing, in general, our hospitals provide outstanding care," said Dr. Jim Osberg, who oversees state-run mental health services for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Osberg cited the services that the state will be able to offer mental health patients once Central Regional Hospital opens.
"The reason we think it's so important and of great value to patients to get into the new hospital is it is such a wonderful facility," he said. "It does have such good amenities that we can't meet today in existing hospitals."
Larger, new facilities are not the long-term answer for mental health patients, John Tote, with the Mental Health Associaition of North Carolina, said. Tote said he believes more attention should be focused on community-based care.
"We've really got to take a look at that not only in dollars and cents but in the human cost, as well," he said.
Young said all the patients want is for the state to slow down and not rush this transition.
"Butner, I don't think is ready to open," Young said.