Raleigh, N.C. — Dozens of people rallied across the street from the state legislative building on Thursday in an effort to try to keep the doors of Dorothea Dix Hospital open.
The protest, organized by the Wake County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, was also aimed at raising awareness about the need for additional state hospital bed and services for people with mental illness.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it was closing the state’s oldest psychiatric hospital to help cut approximately $28 million in operating costs that weren’t allocated in the 2010-11 state budget.
Most patients 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 DHHS.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that during the first six months of 2010, state psychiatric patients – many deemed to be a threat to themselves and others – waited waited an average of 2.6 days to be admitted, leaving them to be treated instead at local hospitals.
“The consequences of closing state hospital bed and not providing adequate funding for community services is already playing out in emergency rooms in hospitals across the state,” the group said in a news release. “Apparently, our current government leaders do not grasp the impact on our communities by failing to provide hospital beds for seriously mentally ill individuals.”
Earlier this month, it also released a report 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.
Thursday’s rally included several community leaders, including Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Tony Gurley, commissioners Joe Bryan and Lindy Brown and Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.