What’s to happen to mental health center patients?
SouthtownStar editorial January 25, 2012 8:48PM
Updated: February 27, 2012 9:52AM
Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has announced that the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, which provides acute short-term care, will close in early July because of the Legislature’s inadequate funding of mental health care.
The center — which receives patients from Chicago’s South Side to Kankakee, including South Cook and Will counties — has had a shaky future for several years because of the trend in mental health care to move patients from state institutions to smaller, community-based settings. In recent years, the state has steadily reduced staff and resources at Tinley Park until it now cares for an average of only about 50 patients daily.
The center was set to close in December, but the Legislature shifted around money to keep it and six other state facilities open at least through June.
Quinn’s administration says the Tinley Park center is closing sooner than others because it ranked lowest based on the criteria in the state’s formula. We’ll have to take the governor and his aides at their word because, curiously, they’ve refused to release the full rankings.
As we’ve said here before, we’re not opposed to the center closing — as long as the state has a clear, credible plan to care for its patients, who generally are seriously troubled and a potential danger to themselves and others. It’s essential they get equal or better care. We’re not convinced that they will.
The state intends to contract with local hospitals to place the patients in psychiatric wards, certain there will be enough beds available once the state starts providing money for such care. Also, by closing Tinley Park, more state funds can go for substance abuse, follow-up and long-term care for the patients, according to state officials.
When we talked to Quinn’s people, they contradicted themselves on whether they have commitments from hospitals. No hospital official or spokesman we talked to confirmed negotiations, much less an agreement.
Quinn’s aides say we should trust their plan. We’d like to, but what about our state’s leadership and performance during the past 15 years instills trust?