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Breaking: Mass. To Close Taunton State Hospital, Move Beds Elsewhere

The new state psychiatric hospital will try to replicate the feel of a village green

The Department of Mental Health plans to close Taunton State Hospital, one of the six state-run psychiatric hospitals in Massachusetts, by the end of this year. The move is part of a plan to redistribute the placement of patients with chronic and severe mental illness as a large new state hospital opens in Worcester this summer.

Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Anna Chinappi said that department staffers, including Commissioner Barbara Leadholm, were in Taunton today to announce the plans for closure to the hospital staff.

The hospital’s 169 beds will be redistributed, she said: 120 to the new Worcester state hospital and 45 beds to Tewksbury State Hospital. The closure, she said, is part of “the realignment and redistribution” of the state mental health system’s 626 hospital beds — “which remain at 626 beds. This action does not represent a reduction in force,”

The Massachusetts Nurses Association decried the plan for closing Taunton State Hospital, saying it would hurt Massachusetts people with mental illness. An MNA press release quoted Karen Coughlin, a nurse at Taunton State and vice president of the association, as saying: “Our system has been operating well over full capacity for years. We can’t provide the care people need even with our facility open. The other issue is geography. We are now forcing patients and families to travel to Worcester, Tewksbury or out to Western Mass for their mental health care. It’s a travesty.”

But Commissioner Leadholm said in a phone interview that the closing frees up money for moving the beds to a far finer, brand new facility. Our conversation, lightly edited:

Why is Taunton State Hospital being closed? Continue reading