State to End Program for Criminally Insane

MAY 25, 2004 - Posted at 3:57 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Mental health officials plan to proceed with closing the state's only treatment program for the criminally insane.

That's despite questions raised today by legislators, mental health advocates and a judge about the consequences of shutting down the program.

The state Department of Human Services has decided to not renew its $3 million contract with the company that runs the program.  Officials say they will move the 39 clients, mental patients and substance abusers acquitted of serious crimes because they are mentally ill, to a private facility or outpatient care when the contract expires June 30.

Pat Dahlgren, director of DHS' Behavioral Health Services Division, told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor today that the move would save the state about $2 million a year without any drop-off of services.

The committees took no action.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)