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Lantern launch marks closing of Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute

Former employees, patients and community members gathered nearby to release lighted lanterns in honor of the occasion.

 

The last employee has clocked out at the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute.

At 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, the final worker left the state health facility. Former employees, patients and community members gathered nearby to release lighted lanterns in honor of the occasion.

"This is a loss. It's almost like you're losing not only family, but just a service that was so needed," said Anna Short, a substance abuse counselor at MHI.

In January, Gov. Terry Branstad called for the closure of two of the state's four mental health facilities -- Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. He said the goal was to shift focus to community-based care, while saving the state nearly $10 million.

Workers have protested the closures, worrying there won't be enough help available for patients who need it.

"I'm a real believer that it's a moral issue, it's not about money. It's a moral issue that we need to take care of those that can't take care of themselves," said John Roe, an employee of the facility for 34 years.

"There's going to be folks in prison that don't belong there. There's going to be drug addicts in prison that don't belong there. Even worse, there's going to be mentally ill in prison that don't belong there," said Short.

The Mental Health Institute has a 154-year history in Mount Pleasant, and workers like Roe say they wouldn't trade their time there for anything.

"Over the years, I've really learned a lot from our patients, like how to be a better human being... how to have compassion," he said.

More than 60 people were laid off from the Mount Pleasant facility, and another 53 from Clarinda.

Funding for those facilities will be reallocated to the Independence and Cherokee institutions.

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