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I am stunned to learn that the General Assembly voted in April to shut down the geriatric unit at Southwest Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion.
In fiscal year 2009 the unit had operational costs of roughly $1.3 million and revenue of approximately $2.5 million. It is not losing money. Why must it be closed?
Our community’s aging population is faced with many health issues that force them into our state psychiatric hospitals. Nursing homes are refusing to take problematic patients because of lack of staffing and the overall extra attention that patients with dementia and other mental illnesses require.
Local private psychiatric facilities usually have to refuse patients because of inability to provide long-term care. The objective of psychiatric facilities is to provide short-term crisis care through in-patient hospitalization and maintenance care through outpatient care.
When an elder is hospitalized at private facilities but no longer requires crisis care, the social worker is faced with placement constraints. This is largely due to the elderly patients’ medical histories and treatment requirements.
The state’s mental facilities are forced to take these elderly patients because they are unable to care for themselves and most families are unable to financially provide adequate care.
Elected leaders have now voted to move them hours away from their families, friends, doctors and the area of Virginia the troubled elders have called home for many years.
What about the authorized representatives of the families? How can that person be able to make critical medical decisions for a family member hours away?
These patients that are being forced to move are spouses, mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers. They are part of the same society that we all make up.
Why should they be treated any different than you or I? To place them several hours away is not an option! We must re-establish funding to the geriatric institute.
Elected officials are faced with many tough decisions regarding the budget, but to deny our elderly the local care that they deserve and the comfort of seeing family regularly is not a tough decision.