Georgia Regional to Stay Open

There are new developments in the fight to keep Georgia Regional Hospital open. Recently, the state Department of Human Resources recommended closing the mental health facility when Gov. Perdue ordered the department to cut $114 million from its budget. It's one of only seven mental health facilities in Georgia, and one of only two that helps children.

Now state lawmakers say it looks like it will stay open. They say the Department of Human Resources is looking at a new budget proposal that would spare Georgia Regional, thanks to an outpouring of local support, like a public hearing last month.

Rep. Tom Bordeaux (D-Savannah) says the Department of Human Resources is recommending cuts, but closing Georgia Regional won't be one of them. "The impact on this community, on the consumers, the patients, their families, on the businesses, on the healthcare providers was going to be devastating if we closed Georgia Regional," he said.

When people have mental health problems, they usually end up at the emergency room. Local hospitals send 1,700 patients a year to Georgia Regional. They say without the hospital's help, they would be severely overburdened. "If those patients had to stay in our hospitals, we just wouldn't have enough beds to care for all the patients in our community and our region," said Memorial Health's Amy Hughes.

But budget cuts will still be made somewhere. "We still should be aware they are cutting $120 million out of the DHR budget, so someone is still going to be feeling the pains," said Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah). "I'm just glad it's not going to be our weakest citizens."

This is still not a done deal. State lawmakers say the Department of Human Resources commissioner will present his budget to the DHR board next week. If they approve it, it goes to Gov. Perdue's desk. The new state budget will be presented to lawmakers in January.

Reported by: Liz Flynn,