Gov. Chris Christie decided Friday thatSenator Garrett W. Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital will close for good in June 2012, state lawmakers said.
"I'm very, very disappointed in the governor's decision," said state Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon, who is a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
"It's tragic on so many levels," he added.
In Christie's fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, he called for one of New Jersey's five psychiatric facilities to close, saving the state an estimated $9 million per year. The Legislature approved a budget Wednesday for the fiscal year that began Friday.
It was not immediately clear what would become of the 600-acre facility.
Closing Hagedorn or Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was the recommendation of a state task force report given to Christie in February.
The proposed closure had been met by criticism by the families of patients, employees and state lawmakers. State officials say the closure will help ease New Jersey's reliance on institutions.
State Assemblyman John DiMaio, a member of the task force, said Friday he believed the Republican governor's administration had its mind made up regardless of the task force's recommendation.
“Hagedorn caters to those older and frail folks that need a place where it’s a nicer setting and staff cares for their needs better," said DiMaio, R-Warren/Hunterdon.
Brett Miller, a member of the Hagedorn staff and the AFSCME Local 2212, said Friday he heard about the decision through a text message from a co-worker.
After talking to a reporter about regrouping and looking at other options, Miller sighed.
“I don’t think there’s too much we can do, they made their decision,” Miller said Friday.
“I think this is what they wanted to do from the start,” he continued. “We tried our best. Everyone at the hospital, the union, the patients' families, we all wanted to really keep this place open.
“I’m very disappointed in the decision.”
Doherty, DiMaio and state Assemblyman Erik Peterson voted against Christie's fiscal year 2012 budget.
Christie's office deferred comment to state Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez.
Velez, who supported Christie’s decision to close one of the state-run facilities, said in a statement that the closing is part “of the administration's ongoing commitment to transition patients to community-based care options.”
“This is fundamentally a basic human rights issue when it comes to the quality of care our patients with psychiatric and developmental disabilities receive, and we are beginning to make it possible for them to have the opportunity to live and thrive in a community setting rather than a clinical one,” Velez stated..
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