Mental health cuts won’t be felt locally

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2011

Last week’s announcement that the state department of mental health will cut nearly 600 jobs by Oct. 1 should not affect mental health services in Covington County, said Diane Baugher, director of the South Central Alabama Mental Health facility.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the local facility is not a state facility, which means we should not be affected by the reduction in staff,” Baugher said. “On the flip side, we do have a contract with the state to provide services. We’ve experienced some contract cuts, but luckily that doesn’t translate into staff cuts.”

The 400 layoffs at Partlow Hospital in Tuscaloosa make up the bulk of the statewide layoffs and are due to its planned closure in November. Its residents are being transferred to other facilities run by private organizations and community groups. The other 182 layoffs are throughout the agency and are due primarily to budget problems.

State Department of Mental Health Commissioner Zelia Baugh said the recently passed budget left the department with a $30 million shortfall for the fiscal year 2012.

The commissioner said with tough management decisions the state has been able to reduce that deficit to about $14 million.