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Plans to close Southwestern State Hospital

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

January 7, 2009

THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - Georgia is looking to privatize state mental hospitals. Several operating mental hospitals are set to close.

And according to a local legislator, one of those hospitals is Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, one of Thomas County's largest employers. Over 800 people could be out of work by 2012.

Close to 900 people work at Southwestern State Hospital in thomasville.  But plans for a statewide shift in the mental health system call for this hospital to shut down.

"To overcome that in the challenging economy we're in now would certainly be a great blow to us," says Don Sims, President of the Thomas County Chamber of Commerce.

State officials are leaning toward the privatization of mental hospitals, meaning they now want to hire for-profit companies to operate new psychiatric facilities, and shut down several state hospitals, including hospitals in Thomasville and Milledgeville. They would close in three years.

"Anything that happens with them as far as downsizing or closing would be a devastating event in this community," says Sims. "The skilled workers come from the five county area of Brooks, Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell, and Thomas counties. And these are skilled jobs with good benefits."

Not only would the closing devastate the economy it would also create an extra hardship for patients and family members, being forced to travel hours away for care.

"The level of service, cost of service...we don't see an advantage of taking a tried and true service provider out of a community that needs the jobs frankly," says Sims.

State Representative Mike Keown and the Chamber of Commerce both say they plan on doing everything they can to prevent the local facility from closing.

But they need your help as well.

"I would urge the community on their own to write their representatives, senators, and the governor."

According to Representative Keown the plan calls for mental hospitals in Augusta, Milledgeville, and Thomasville to be shut down.

If that plan goes through a new facility in South Central Georgia could break ground in the near future.

Southwestern State hospital is Thomas County's 3rd largest employeer, right behind Archbold Memorial hospital, and the Thomas Co. School system. Feedback