Crownsville feels pressure of budget cuts

Mental hospitals seek to maintain services

November 30, 2001|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Facing $1.6 million in budget cuts, Crownsville Hospital Center officials said yesterday that the hospital might have to reduce mental health services to comply with state-required cost reductions.

The cuts -- nearly 5 percent of its $33 million operating budget -- are on top of other cost-cutting measures that went into effect this year at the 90-year-old state psychiatric hospital.

"With these cuts we have nothing else to pull from," Ronald R.J. Hendler, superintendent of Crownsville, said yesterday at a meeting of the hospital's Citizen Advisory Board. "We really need to have the system bail us out or we need to reduce services."

He did not provide details on what services would be reduced.

Hendler said Crownsville's cuts are among the largest facing Maryland's 11 psychiatric hospitals, but it is not alone in facing financial woes. Overall, more than $9 million has been cut from the current operating budgets of the hospitals, said Oscar L. Morgan, director of the state's Mental Hygiene Administration.

"Right now, we basically have a hiring freeze," Morgan said. "We'll selectively hire, mainly staff who work with patients, but not hire administrative personnel."

Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville took a $1.8 million cut, 3.6 percent of the hospital's $50 million budget, said Superintendent William B. Landis. He said the cuts might lead to a reduction in the number of patients.

"We may have to reduce patient census in the long haul and go to limited admissions," Landis said. But he added that "we think we can make it through if there are no more cuts."

The cuts in the psychiatric hospitals' budgets are part of the $87 million in state spending reductions approved this month by the state Board of Public Works in the first round of cost-cutting in a slowing economy.

Crownsville had looked for ways to save money this year -- including a hiring freeze -- to address a $600,000 deficit caused mainly by high fuel costs last winter and maintenance of the facility's antiquated infrastructure.

Hendler told the advisory board that there is little room for further cuts in the operating budget, which includes drugs, clothing and food, "things patients need on a daily basis," he said.

Although Hendler said services might be affected, Morgan, the Mental Hygiene Administration director, said a reduction in clinical services for patients is "not on the table."

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