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Wake County Leaders To Discuss Mental Health Care Options

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County commissioners will meet next week to decide how to care for the mentally ill in Raleigh after the city's only mental hospital closes.

Mental health advocates say millions of dollars should be set aside to provide short-term care for the mentally ill when Dorothea Dix Hospital, scheduled to close in 2007, moves to a new site in Butner.

Commissioners said they are moving quickly on a plan to take care of people once the hospital shuts down, but some say they are not moving fast enough.

"The emergency rooms are going to be entirely overloaded," said Ann Akland, a spokeswoman for the Wake County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "People who come in with heart problems or other kinds of emergencies are going to experience delays because staff is taking care of the mentally ill."

Advocates say the estimated cost for a proposed 60-bed facility is $30 million.

"Building this inpatient psychiatric hospital is a No. 1 priority for county commissioners," said Wake County Manager Joe Durham

In its proposed budget, Wake County set aside $10 million for a facility over a two-year period to start the design process. Leaders of the local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, however, worry the hospital will never get built without all the money being set aside now.

"We should not wait until we can find funds somewhere else," Akland said.

Wake County leaders said they are pursuing state funding and want to raise $10 million to help fund the hospital, which they hope to have open by 2008.

"By committing $30 million this day will not mean that this facility will be on the ground quicker," Durham said.

Leaders also said they hope to develop community-based services, so that even if a new hospital is not built when Dorothea Dix closes, the mentally ill will have somewhere to go other than an emergency room.


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