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April 16, 2014

Craig Center closing postponed again

Independent review says better supervision needed

MILLEDGEVILLE — The closure of the James B. Craig Nursing Center, located on the campus of Central State Hospital (CSH), has been delayed two months to Aug. 31.

Regional Hospital Administrator Dan Howell said the new date is “firm.”

“We bumped it back to ensure the safe and effective transition of individuals still up at the Craig Building,” he said Tuesday.

Howell said, if for some reason all of the 70 remaining Craig residents don’t move to a “community setting” by late August, they will head to Atlanta’s Georgia Regional Hospital or Augusta’s Gracewood East Central Regional Hospital.

“Our hope is to transition as many people as possible by Aug. 31 to minimize the move to Augusta or Georgia Regional,” the CSH administrator said. “Inevitably, people will end up moving to both locations.”

The only state-run nursing home

The Craig Center is home to individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health issues, and is Georgia’s only state-run nursing home facility. The home housed more than 200 people at the start of downsizing nearly two years ago.

Craig was originally planned for funding termination effective Dec. 31, 2013, but the date continues creeping back.

Closure of the Craig Center was advertised under a DBHDD shift from an institutional-based system of health care delivery to a community-based system of care. This deinstitutionalization satisfies requirements imposed by a 2010 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice requiring the state to move all individuals with developmental disabilities out of state institutions and into communities, where they have the opportunity to live in their own homes with access to high quality health care, according to the DBHDD website.

Craig’s 70 residents represent 37 Georgia counties. Howell said nearly 180 staff members remain also.

These individuals’ diagnoses and/or medical requirements include tube fed or oxygen, mentally or severely retarded, dementia, schizophrenia and court ordered “mentally” ill prisoners to name a few. The majority of Craig residents have spent more than 20 years at the facility. One resident is 96 years old.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) pleaded his Craig Center case during the recent Georgia legislative session. Kidd said the state of Georgia has abandoned its “fragile citizens.”

“They are having a hard time trying to place these people. There are nursing homes that don’t want some of these patients,” Kidd said. “Where are you going to put them?”

The local legislator said the DBHDD is doing the best it can to follow the federal settlement but he believes Craig should stay open to serve the remaining population.

“The state is running short on treatment of the mentally ill,” he said. “As long as we have a facility in my opinion, it would be smart to utilize it. You have a place that’s been working. The need is there.”

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