Local News

State mental hospital opening delayed again

Posted June 2, 2008

— The state, for the fourth time in less than a year, has delayed the opening of a new mental health facility in Butner for another month, health officials said.

Patients from both John Umstead Hospital in Butner and Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh were initially scheduled to begin their move to Central Regional Hospital in mid-June.

But Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said Monday the date has been pushed back to hire more staff, properly train them and address any remaining safety issues in the new building.

Umstead's patients are now scheduled to move the week of July 14; Dix patients are schedule to move the week of July 28.

"This is cautious, responsible and very logical," Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, who chairs the Mental Health Oversight Committee, said.

Dix and Umstead will both close when the transition is complete by Aug. 1.

John Tote, executive director for the Mental Health Association in North Carolina believes the decision to continually delay the target dates by weeks at a time could potentially have a negative impact on the larger mental health community.

"We have to move in a way that's best for the client first, but we have to be mindful this could have ripple, potentially tidal-wave impact repercussions on other parts of the system if we're not careful," he said.

In January, Benton delayed the closing of both hospitals by 60 days to improve operations and to allow sufficient time to address construction issues with the hospital.

Some mental health workers have asked that the hospital's opening be delayed a year, saying the new facility will be understaffed and that working conditions pose a danger to patients and staff and make it difficult to provide quality heath care.

Charlotte Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory told reporters in Raleigh Monday that Dix should remain fully functional through the end of the fiscal year to give the next governor time to review the state's mental health needs.

Gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue said the most important issue should be making sure patients are getting the care they need.

When it's complete Central Regional will have 432 private rooms, employ more than 1,600 people and serve patients from 26 counties.


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  • fkhaywood Jun 3, 2008

    Have you ever been to Butner? It is in the middle of nowhere, and close to nothing. A member of my family lives near Clayton and is a Supervisor @ Dix; She is telling them to go jump when Dix closes because of the commute. The regional facility is not designed to serve the same types of patients as the exisiting facilities, until the law is changed, there will be continuing problems in adequately serving mental health needs in NC.

  • catwoman1 Jun 3, 2008

    Hey Cranky..do you work at DDH?

  • nic Jun 3, 2008

    I am glad they are delaying the opening, but not sure if 30 days is enough to find adequate staffing and training. As nurse who has not worked the patient unit in 5 years and will now be transferred into that position I have gotten absolutely no training and was told we would just move onto the floor and work it out from there. Unsafe for patients and for my nursing license.

  • iamforjustice Jun 2, 2008

    Depends where in the triangle you live to determine if it is a long ride or not. I just jump on 540, exit hwy 50 and I am there in 20 minutes. I know people who live in Virginia that drives to Butner everyday.

  • cranky Jun 2, 2008

    I hope they delay it again & again until they get it right!!!!!I don't want to drive to Butner. It's going to be a long haul!!!!

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus Jun 2, 2008

    Competent mental health leadership - can we have some, please?

  • valentine girl Jun 2, 2008

    Maybe if they wait long enough to open the new hospital, the gas prices will have come down for all those employees who must now begin the long commute to Butner. This is sad commentary on the State of North Carolina and some of its agencies. "New" is not necessarily better. And, it sounds as though many employees may simply not make that commute from the Triangle to the wilderness of Butner. The DHHS did not think of the patients and certainly did not think about the employees when they came up with this new concept!

  • rand321 Jun 2, 2008

    The Governor and his poorly run mental health reforms and the number of accrediation standard bodies having issues with NC mental hosipitals should complete comprehensive safety review of the new hospitals, the staff and management before causing more agony to the patients and more costs to the taxpayers of NC.

    They should work to do no more harm to the patients or to NC. Prove to the citizens that you have fixed these issues.

  • APPMAN Jun 2, 2008

    Just another example of state government in action.

  • claudnc Jun 2, 2008

    I say just leave Dorethea Dix open!