Community braces for hospital closure

Southwestern State Hospital set to close. / MGN Online

Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville will officially close down within the next month.

Many living with a mental illness will no longer be sent there for treatment.

Dougherty County commissioners had their concerns over how the closing of the hospital would affect their community.

Those with the Albany Area Community Service Board say although Southwestern hasn't officially closed, there's already been an impact on the community.

Mental health professionals are seeing an increase of patients in the Crisis Stabilization Unit at the Dougherty County Mental Health Center. There's also been an uptick in walk-in patients.

The increase in patients could mean the center may eventually need more funding.

To accommodate for an influx of patients, the center has increased the number of beds. On a daily basis 250 people receive treatment at the Dougherty County Mental Health Center and this doesn't include those staying overnight the crisis unit.

"If our crisis stabilization unit is full then through GCAL, the Georgia Crisis Access Line, we'll help that person find an available bed," said Kay Brooks, Executive Director of the Albany Area Community Service Board.

Dougherty County health care professionals have prepared for the closure of Southwestern State Hospital for well over a year. They say it's going to take unity from all stakeholders, including law enforcement, to make the transition as seamless as possible.