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This morning’s N&O story about a judges decision to allow the state to transfer patients from Dorothea Dix to the new mental hospital in Butner includes another reminder of the chaos in our mental health system.

Dix will remain open. At least 100 mental patients will be housed in units at the 153-year-old mental hospital for the foreseeable future as the state struggles to cope with a serious shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. Patients often languish for days in emergency rooms waiting for a spot to open up at one of the four state hospitals

Patients are languishing in emergency rooms eight years after mental health reform efforts began with the promise of fewer people housed in hospitals and treated instead in local communities.

The state built an overflow wing at the the new hospital in Butner before it opened.  And it is still not big enough.

Need any more confirmation of the state of our mental health system, after eight years of neglect and mismanagement?

3 Comments


  1. Alex

    October 8, 2009 at 8:36 am

    To have a mental illness is to be a second class citizen. We would not treat diseases like diabetes or cancer this poorly. You would not say to a cancer patient we have limited beds. Insurance pays to treat cancer more readily than mental illness. Depression, substance abuse, and other illnesses are just as deadly to the despairing patients who finally take their own lives. They were closing Dix in the early 1980s and had a skeleton crew then and patients crammed in on wards like sardines.

    The thought was to take patients out of institutions and treat them in the community. Then all over the country the community mental health was shut down or privatized.

    Mental Health Reform has to be a part of Health Reform. Often these folks do not have the resources to help themselves. Life is hard enough with a mental illness one does not have the energy to fight for care.

  2. Aftercancer

    October 8, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little but this is all about to get worse with the cuts to Case management and the death of Community Support. Unfortunately in the current economy even the advocates don’t know what to fight for.

  3. Lester

    October 8, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    its interesting that Mecklenburg County opened an inpatient non-profit psychiatric hospital 33 years ago in 1976, while Wake County still doesnt have such a unit.

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