Legislators push to keep 72 beds in Taunton State Hospital 06/16/2012

The fate of Taunton State Hospital currently rests in the hands of a joint conference committee that’s meeting to iron out the differences between the House and Senate budget bills.

“We’ve had some sympathetic ears in the Senate,” said state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton.

During its budget debate, the Senate unanimously approved a budget amendment calling for Taunton State Hospital to remain open at an occupancy level of 72 beds until an independent study on the facility is concluded.

Earlier this year, Gov. Deval Patrick called for Taunton State Hospital to be closed by the end of the year. Under that proposal, patients would be transferred to a new facility in Worcester and an older one in Tewksbury. Many have said such a move would have a negative impact on mental health services in southeastern Massachusetts.

Before the Senate began debating the fiscal 2013 budget, the House passed an amendment in April that accepted the governor’s proposal to shutter Taunton State Hospital, while allocating $8.5 million for a private vendor or vendors to provide 30 beds in southeastern Massachusetts.

As the conference committee works to produce a unified legislative budget proposal by working out the differences between the House and Senate budgets, Taunton State Hospital is one of many issues that will be addressed.