Local News

Advocates concerned for N.C.'s youngest mental patients

Posted February 24, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Patient advocates are expressing concerns about mold, mildew, asbestos and a prison-like setting at the state’s old John Umstead Hospital in Butner, where children and adolescents are treated.

Meanwhile, less than a mile away, at the new $130 million Central Regional Hospital, 30 beds intended for those patients remain empty.

Umstead Advocates concerned for N.C.'s youngest mental patients

The new state-of-the-art mental facility, which opened last summer to adult patients from Umstead, was built with a children's unit that also includes an indoor gym, exercise room and classrooms that are now used for additional office space.

Clinical director Dr. Stephen Oxley says there were not enough beds planned for the child and adolescent population.

The approximately 75 juvenile patients are split between Central Regional's Umstead campus and its Dorothea Dix Hospital campus in Raleigh. The hospital's plan is to eventually have all of them at the Umstead facility, which once served as an army hospital for U.S. military personnel returning from World War II.

"It's old, but I think it's been fairly well maintained," said David Bullard, an administrator at Umstead.

The state has recently spent approximately $200,000 renovating the facility with fresh paint, brighter lights, new security cameras and an upgraded air-conditioning system.

Two years ago, state health officials identified mold and mildew in a part of the children's gymnasium that wasn't being used. Last month, the area was sealed off from any kind of use.

That building is connected to the buildings that house the children's living and treatment area.

Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, a federally mandated advocacy group, is concerned the mold could spread and says it is a serious environmental concern.

Oxley says the campus’s decentralized infrastructure helps avoid that problem.

"Each building in that old facility has its own ventilation system," Oxley said. "And really, that's the way mold would tend to travel. So as long as we can isolate those, we wouldn't expect it to spread to other parts of the hospital."

Health issues aside, Smith says there are other concerns about the Umstead campus.

"The location where the kids are today was never built with children in mind," Smith said. "It was built to be an army barracks."

Disability Rights North Carolina believes there is space available to treat anywhere from 60 to 70 children at Central Regional.

In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler, Smith says one solution would be to move a research team to Dix to make room for additional patients. Cansler says no decision has been made to change the plan but that officials are considering all possible alternatives.

Central Regional Hospital officials admit that would be ideal.

"We would have loved to be able to do that, but there just weren't enough built in this building," Oxley said.

Umstead, the state says, at this point is the best compromise.

"Therein lies a larger problem, in that when they built this hospital," Smith said. "Apparently, this is another example of poor planning."

7 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • shamel Feb 26, 2009

    Hospital administration and parents could benefit greatly by checking out the remarkable research on toxic mold removal done by environmental expert Dr Ed Close. Simply diffusing a therapeutic-grade essential oil regularly will likely result in an environment very hostile to mold.
    http://www.secretofthieves.com/mold.cfm/79544

    It seems like this would make traditional remediation projects easier and more effective, as well as creating a healthier environment for employees to work and patients to stay.

    In one instance, 10,667 stachybotrys mold spores were identified in a per cubic meter area. After diffusing Thieves essential oil for forty-eight hours, Dr Close retested. Only thirteen stachybotrys remained. Similarly, 75,000 stachybotrys mold spores were identified in a sample of sheetrock. After seventy-two hours of diffusing, no stachybotrys mold spores remained. (Stachybotrys has a reputation for being the most toxic mold.)

  • sarry Feb 25, 2009

    "If we didnt have so many "do-gooders" and advocates -- from everything to cruetly to chickens and goats-- we would be much better off. Mold or mildrew in an unheated or air condioned area is not unusual. Unplug your refrigerator for a couple days and then open it up and see what you find."
    I hope you aren't saying that the wellbeing of children is equivalent to the wellbeing of chickens. The fact that the area is unheated and unairconditioned is part of the problem. I hope you aren't unfortunate enough to find yourself living in such a situation.

  • superman Feb 25, 2009

    If we didnt have so many "do-gooders" and advocates -- from everything to cruetly to chickens and goats-- we would be much better off. Mold or mildrew in an unheated or air condioned area is not unusual. Unplug your refrigerator for a couple days and then open it up and see what you find.

  • familyfour Feb 25, 2009

    Cover up the children and forget about them and maybe they will go away.
    tinazz72

    Apparently, that's what they are hoping will happen to that mold, too.

  • tinazz72 Feb 25, 2009

    Well, this article seems to have gotten as little interest from the public as from the government. Cover up the children and forget about them and maybe they will go away.

  • terrie Feb 24, 2009

    "The state has recently spent approximately $200,000 renovating the facility with fresh paint, brighter lights, new security cameras and an upgraded air-conditioning system."
    That's $27,404 less than the State of North Carolina paid Stephen Oxley last year. It's a shame and a disgrace.

  • terrie Feb 24, 2009

    I would ask Oxley, Bullard, Cansler and Perdue why it is more important to put fancy offices for overpaid bureaucrats in the new hospital than have decent facilities for children and adolescents. This goes back to Patsy Christian who did her best to prevent having a child and adolescent unit with an adequately equipped school at the new hospital. They are painting over old walls and putting window dressing on a nightmare of a hospital. These children are definitely being left behind. How about zero tolerance when it comes to treating children as second rate patients who are always sent to the back of the line?