Raleigh, N.C. — Most of the patients at Dorothea Dix Hospital will be moved to other facilities by Dec. 23, and the hospital could close its doors as early as next fall, according to a timeline from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Last month, the department announced it would move most operations at the hospital in an effort to help cut $28 million in operating costs not allocated in the 2010-11 state budget.
About 30 forensic beds and a child outpatient clinic will remain at Dix until next fall.
To formally close the hospital, Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler will have to submit a proposal to the General Assembly. If no bill is introduced in the next legislative session to keep it open, the hospital could close as early as September after 155 years of treating mental health patients.
Cansler previously outlined that shifting services from Dix to Central Regional Hospital in Butner and Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro would save about $15 million while maintaining needed capacity for inpatient mental health treatment.
About 60 adult inpatient beds, 11 long-term beds, 54 forensic beds, 12 clinical research beds and pre-trial evaluation outpatient and inpatient services will be moved to Central Regional. Thirty long-term beds will be moved to Cherry Hospital.
"We currently have no specific plans to relocate the remaining 30 forensic beds," Cansler said in a statement Wednesday. "Should Dix Hospital be officially closed next year, the 30 forensic beds will operate operate under the CRH umbrella on the Dix campus until a longer term plan is developed."
More than 800 full-time and temporary workers are employed at Dix. Most of those who handle the services being moved to Central Regional have been reassigned to the Butner facility.
“The fact that we received no budget for Dix this year is a very clear indication, given our current financial climate, that we really needed to move forward with cost reduction measures," Health and Human Services Deputy Director Mike Watson said Wednesday.
Mental health advocates are concerned about the effect closing Dix will have on those in need of treatment.
About two dozen people on Wednesday afternoon participated in a rally, organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Wake County, outside the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
The alliance released a report this week, showing that since 2001, the number of prison and jail inmates with mental illnesses has risen while the number of patient beds in state mental hospitals has declined.
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Renee McCoy said more than 1,300 DHHS employees will continue to work on the Dorothea Dix campus after the moves.