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Missouri to drop acute care mental services

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – The state of Missouri is about to get out of the acute mental care business.

The move is part of the budget cuts made this week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The proposed cuts, which are expected to go through, would result in the closing of acute care services at facilities in St. Louis and Farmington, which currently house mental patients on a short-term basis.

Mark Stringer with the Missouri Department of Mental Health says the private sector will be able to better handle acute care.

"There is better reimbursement, they're better able to attract and retain good staff...private hospitals can bill Medicaid for people in psychiatric units," Stringer said.

Stringer adds that the move would save the state more than $7 million a year.

John Noonan with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is critical of the plan.

"As far as we know, the (Nixon) administration doesn't have deals with the private hospitals that would be taking this on, and I don't think it's safe to assume that they are going to be picking up the slack," Noonan said.

Meanwhile, long-term patients at Fulton State Hospital would be transferred to St. Louis and Farmington. That move is expected to result in the closing of several housing units at Fulton and the loss of about 300 jobs.