Thursday, September 30, 2010
Disability Rights NC Challenges Construction of New State Hospital
One day before the ground breaking ceremony of the new Cherry State Hospital Disability Rights North Carolina calls on Governor Perdue and the N.C. General Assembly to halt construction on the new Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro pending a thorough review of the need for this construction. “The plan developed to build this facility is over 10 years old,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “Given the devastating cuts across the full continuum of mental health services triggered by the State’s economic crisis, proceeding with new construction of a large institution is fiscally irresponsible. More importantly, even if the state were in better budget times, is this new facility still a wise investment?"
Disability Rights NC believes this construction highlights the state’s institutional bias - that it is willing to spend more money on bricks and mortar than on more appropriate, community-based services for people with mental illness. In light of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision and the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice is already looking into North Carolina’s institutional bias and its continuing failure to provide community services, constructing a new hospital is particularly short-sighted, the agency’s director said. “It is time for North Carolina to act progressively and maximize its resources to benefit the state and all its citizens. Putting our resources into community services rather than institutions will be more cost-effective and humane. North Carolina’s citizens deserve a better vision,” Smith said.
Smith believes that construction of the new hospital may jeopardize the state’s compliance with the American with Disabilities Act by focusing more resources on institutionally-based care than on community-based services. “It is certainly contrary to the spirit and intent of the ADA and the Olmstead decision,” she said. “If people with mental illness receive the community services they need, it may entirely eliminate the need for hospitalization for many individuals.”
Smith warns that if the new Cherry Hospital is built, her agency will be carefully watching the new hospital’s services. “If the hospital cannot find appropriate staff, and if it does not provide appropriate, evidence-based treatment, we will take action,” she said.
Smith said the state should take the time to fully explore and answer the following questions before proceeding with any new construction:
· Would the hospital be necessary if the state had adequate community-based services?
· If additional hospital-based beds are found to be necessary, what type of beds is needed – adult acute care, adult long term care, forensics (for those involved in the criminal justice system), etc.?
· Given the history of problems the state faced when building Central Regional Hospital, including significant needs for retrofitting the building prior to admitting patients to ensure a safe and therapeutic environment, what assurance can the state give the public that there will not be similar problems with the proposed construction at Cherry?
· Will the state be able to staff the new hospital adequately? There is a long-standing history of difficulty in staffing the current Cherry Hospital.
· How will the construction of a new building address the hospital’s long and troubled history of abuse and neglect of patients?
· Should the state consider moving any new construction to a setting more conducive to attracting qualified staff, such as Greenville, which has a medical school?
# # #
Disability Rights North Carolina is the state’s federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities. One of the P&A’s primary federal mandates is to protect and advocate against the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.