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Smaller state hospital proposed

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A consultant is recommending a smaller State Hospital facility.

The Hospital is in Jamestown. It has 108 beds, and it provides acute psychiatric and residential care for patients with mental illnesses.

Human Service Research Institute president David Hughes told the Legislature's Interim Human Services Committee the state is making strides toward more community-based treatment options.

"Given current utilization patterns throughout the system, and the additional enhancements coming on-line, we think that a reduced number of beds is appropriate," Hughes said.

Hughes told the Committee a centralized facility does offer economies of scale.

'But it does become a barrier for access for those who reside at a distance, especially those in the western area," Hughes said. "There are problems with that."

Hughes said it limits engagement with families, as well as community support systems.

"An alternative might allow more flexibility," Hughes said. He suggested the state work with local hospitals in the west to provide some of those services.

A new state hospital?

The superintendent of the state Hospital in Jamestown says plans are being drawn for  a new hospital  – albeit smaller than the current facililty.

Dr. Rosalie Etherington told the Legislature’s interim Human Services Committee – this would follow the recommendations by the HSRI. She told the Committee some of the existing buildings for the hospital are unused or condemned.  And she said the facility is ill-equipped for modern psychiatric hospital care.

"Patient care units lack natural light," Etherington said. "They have blind spots, and lack large, calming spaces, proven to reduce violence and quicken recovery."

Etherington said the distance between buildings slows the response. And she said there is no dedicated regulatory compliace space for patients exhibiting violence.

Etherington also said most of the electrical and plumbing systems are past their life expectancy, and said the campus is costly and inefficient.

"If you consider we have an approximate 500,000 square feet, and 500 acres of grooming, a smaller hospital, with smaller grounds, would be much more efficient, and would use less FTEs," Etherington said.

The Hospital is on the same grounds as the James River Correctional Center. Responding to a committee question, Etherington said she would like to see the hospital move off those grounds, because of the stigma.

"Sometimes we are mistaken for a prison," Etherington said. "As a hospital setting, that's obviously not very kind."

Etherington said the next step will be to try to find psychiatric beds in the west. She said she will come back to the committee with further proposals by fall.

A proposal for a new State Hospital was floated in the 2019 Legislative Session, but failed to get traction.

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