COLUMBUS Budget remains tight for mental health office

The department has already announced 211 layoffs.
COLUMBUS -- Officials with the Ohio Department of Mental Health say a proposed $23 million funding boost by the state plus already announced layoffs have improved the department's bottom line.
But it might not be enough to avert a consolidation of one of the state's nine psychiatric hospitals, said an agency spokesman. Agency officials should know more in the coming weeks as they come to a decision on a possible consolidation.
"Our budget is still tight," said Samuel Hibbs, spokesman for the Department of Mental Health.
The state mental health department has already announced 211 layoffs around the state, Hibbs said, some of which take effect in December and some in January.
That's projected to save the department several million dollars in personnel costs, he said.
Possible closings: "That certainly puts us in a lot better situation than where we were a couple of months ago," Hibbs said. "We're still looking at ways to make the hospital situation as good as we can." Just a few months ago, the department was talking about the possibility of closing as many as three or four of the state's nine psychiatric facilities.
Hibbs said department officials will know more in January after the state completes a series of meetings statewide to gather information on each of the department's facilities and receive public input.
The meetings began in October. The final gatherings are planned for Dec. 12 and 13 in Cincinnati and Columbus, respectively, officials said.
Hibbs said the department is also looking at possibly partnering with small health-care providers or small hospitals to look for ways to save money.

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