Region 8 Residents Concerned About Criminally Insane Coming to Local Medical Facility

May 26, 2004 -- Posted at 5:33 p.m. CDT

CORNING -- Some Region 8 residents are concerned about mental patients with criminal records coming into their communities. If the Department of Human Services shuts down the Arkansas Partnership Program, it could mean the criminally insane could be housed here in Region 8.

The Department of Health plans to shut down the state's only treatment program for the criminally insane. Legislators met Wednesday in hopes of renewing a $3 million dollar contract to keep the Arkansas Partnership Program open.

70 percent of the patients in the APP have committed violent crimes, but were acquitted due to their illnesses. If the program closes on June 30, most of those patients would come to the Mid-South Health Systems facility in Corning. Right now, the facility only has 16 beds, so not all patients could come here.

The Executive Director of Mid-South Health Systems, Bonnie White, says there are plans to expand.
"Some might go back into the hospital, some might be ready to go back home. So I think there is a lot of different options that currently are being looked at by the state," said White.
But local residents want the state to look elsewhere.
Mary Rosson said, "It really upsets me. I might move. I wouldn't like that at all."
"I don't think it's right at all. I think if they do that they need better security and if they do I think they need to do it in bigger towns than here in Corning," said Tasha Taylor.
But officials at the Mid-South Health Systems say they put community safety first.

"The building we consider it a lock down facility. It has a system in place that very much secures the building. If they are granted certain privileges to leave the building, then there are always staff that are with them," said White, "and we try to stay in contact with our law enforcement so if their are any concerns that they have found, and they are very supportive of the program."

Not all residents see it as a bad thing. Stephanie King thinks that the facility is good for the community.

"I also have several friends that work out there and it's a good place, you know, and they're trying to help people," said King.
"The community has encouraged us to expand on the program. In the town of Corning, many times there is not always job availability and so this is creating opportunities for more individuals to have jobs," said White.

Currently, a Little Rock Circuit Judge has the final say as to where the mental patients will go. Judge Mary McGowan says she's reluctant to authorize any transfers without substantial assurance of public safety.