The Union Recorder

Local News

March 17, 2010

‘It’s just going from bad to worse’

Employees, community react to CSH mental health services layoffs

MILLEDGEVILLE — As hospital administration begin the process of informing employees about the layoffs that will accompany the shuttering of the Adult Mental Health Services program at Central State Hospital, the impact of those dismissals is quickly spreading throughout the Milledgeville community.

Several hospital employees concerned about the way Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities officials and Central State administration are informing employees about the transfers and layoffs contacted The Union-Recorder to give voice to the many community members who will be impacted by this latest chapter in the Central State story.

“There are a bunch of us [hospital employees] upset today,” one CSH employee who wished to remain anonymous told The Union-Recorder Tuesday. “Some people have upward of 26 years at Central State. Sure they said they will offer us jobs at other hospitals out of town, but what are we supposed to do?

“It was bad waking up this morning knowing you don’t have a job. It is sad, sad, sad for everybody — no matter what department you work in.”

That anonymous caller went on to say that these announcements are coming at the worst time they possibly could for the affected employees and the Milledgeville community in general.

“They don’t seem to realize that Georgia Power is going up on the light bills,” the employee said. “How are we supposed to pay our bills? We need to figure that out in the next 30 days. And it’s not like we’ll be able to get another job because everything else is closed.”

Out in the community, Milledgeville residents, many of whom have worked at or know someone who is currently employed at Central State, share the concerns of those employees who are directly affected by the closure.

“I was very dismayed [to hear about the closure of Adult Mental Health Services at CSH], people need those services so bad; I see a lot of people on the streets — some cannot get into a group home because there simply aren’t enough of them,” said former CSH employee Ruben Johnson, who himself was laid off when the Rheem air conditioning manufacturing plant closed down last year. “The resulting loss of jobs is terrible; this community is just getting poorer and poorer.”

Johnson went on to say that unemployment rate and its correlating lack of jobs and opportunity are going to force many people to leave the area in search of jobs, and those who remain will need to live with the possibility of a rise in crime as people become desperate to feed their families.

“I believe there will be a lot more crime as a result [of the large number of job losses]. People have got to get money somehow,” he said. “This is going to have a very detrimental impact on the community; a lot of state jobs are leaving with nothing here to fill the void.”

J.C. Campbell, a local retiree who volunteers time as a driver for the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s trolley tours, questioned the wisdom of the State of Georgia’s cut backs in the Department of Corrections as well as in the state’s mental health system. He pointed to the inmate-on-inmate violence that resulted in the murder of an inmate at Baldwin State Prison last week.

“Both of those prisoners had mental health problems that should have them being serviced at Central State Hospital,” he said. “The way I see it, as the state moves away from ensuring the welfare of those persons with mental health problems, they’re going to wind up serving them in the county jails and in the prison system.

“It’s just going from bad to worse.”

Campbell, too, fears what may come for those families directly affected by the layoffs at Central State and the community changes that will occur as a result.

“I don’t have any personal connections at the State Hospital, but I know there are people there whose families have been employed there for two or three generations,” he said. “They’re just going to have to move on — when there’s nothing else available, that’s just what you’ve go to do. The effect of the layoffs is going to trickle down through everything.

“When it boils down to it, everyone can’t work at the Walmart, even though that seems to be the way it’s going to end up.”

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