Mental Health Center Closing; Residents Urged To Complain

The message at the end of last week’s town hall meeting about the soon-to-close Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center was to call Governor Martin O’Malley’s office and object to the closing of the hospital. Senator E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, Delegate. Richard Sossi, R-36-Queen Anne’s, and Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, all 36th District Republicans, were invited to hear from the community by Republican Kent County commission candidate Tim Lloyd. By evening end, it was clear the community Republicans and Democrats alike want a far better explanation of the state’s plan for mental health services in the Upper Shore counties than has been offered.

As part of August’s round of state budget cuts, Upper Shore is scheduled to stop accepting patients on October 1 and close completely March 1, 2010. The hospital takes mentally ill or dual-diagnosis addiction-mental health patients who have no insurance. Closing in March is calculated to save $2.7-million in the current budget and $7-million operating expenses in future budgets.

Pipkin said his office made 36,000 robocalls alerting people to let Annapolis hear from the community. He met September 8 with Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John Colmers and Jim Johnson.

During the general discussion, many praised the excellent care provided by Upper Shore through the years. Others focused on the state’s lack of planning and apparent ignorance that services taken for granted in western shore communities simply do not exist in Kent County or on the Eastern Shore generally. The 40-bed hospital can hold as many as 72 patients. The number to call is 800-811-8336.