Only North Ala. state mental hospital to close

Published: Jan. 13, 2015 at 7:25 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2015 at 2:23 AM CST
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North Alabama Regional Hospital will close by June 30. (Source: WAFF)
North Alabama Regional Hospital will close by June 30. (Source: WAFF)

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The only state-run mental hospital in north Alabama is slated to close later this year, according to Alabama Department of Mental Health administration.

Associate Commissioner Dr. Beverly Bell-Shambley said they met with the staff of North Alabama Regional Hospital on Tuesday to announce the planned closing.

The projected closure is set for June 30, but could happen sooner if patients transition out earlier than the deadline.

North Alabama Regional Hospital has 149 employees and currently has 41 patients. A plan is in place to transfer the employees to other facilities, but employment with the state will continue.

The patients will transition out into the community leading up to the closure date. When they transition, the patients will receive care through community mental health centers in the counties where they end up.

According to the Department of Mental Health, NARH was established in 1977 and is responsible for the provision of adult inpatient psychiatric services to patients in the northern part of the state.

"It's not totally unexpected because this was part of a long-range plan for the state," said Decatur Mayor Kyle.

Not unexpected, but still a source for concern, Kyle said. The potential of 150 jobs moving out of the city hurts.

"Any time you take a job out of your community, you are reducing sales tax revenue," he said, pointing out that 50 percent of Decatur's revenue comes from that sales tax.

Most in the mental health community knew this announcement was coming, but were still caught by surprised by how soon it came. Mayor Kyle remains hopeful some of the state employees will get to remain local.

Officials say such downsizing is happening nationwide and proving successful. The state will help fund the community mental health centers where patients end up receiving treatment.

Greil Hospital in Montgomery closed in August 2012. State officials said they closed that facility to save the department $10-million per year. Around 120 lost their jobs when it closed. Searcy Hospital in Mt. Vernon closed two months later.

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