PENDLETON - A proposal by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to close one 30-bed ward at the Eastern Oregon Psychiatric Center is under consideration by state legislators.
The closure of the ward, affecting half the beds available at the center, would save the state $1.1 million, according to Anna Richter Taylor, spokesperson for the governor.
Full funding for the center would be $12.8 million, serving approximately 240 individuals annually, according to the governor's budget proposal. If the ward is closed, about 80 less people will be served each year.
The date for the proposed closure is Nov. 1, 2006.
The money saved will help offset a $1 billion shortfall in the state's budget, expected through the summer of 2007, state officials said.
"(The governor) has been up front that this budget will include many, many difficult decisions," spokesman Richter Taylor said.
State Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton said he was aware of center's position, and said he believes the loss of funding could be harmful to Pend- leton.
The psychiatric center employs about 110 people.
"Our economy in our part of the county is becoming so much more dependent on government jobs. Any time we take a hit out of that, it'll hurt us," he said.
He added, however, that the state's budget will have to be cut.
"The governor has made it clear very early on he was not going to be seeking increased revenues. There are only 'X' amount of dollars, and you can only reduce programs or people," Nelson said. "I'm going to encourage the local people to make sure I know that (the center) is a working program. We have to look at whether we are taking away services crucial to the community, and we're going to have to prove it."
Maxine Stone, psychiatric center superintendent, said this isn't the first time the state has discussed funding reductions for the facility, although it is the first time it's been targeted specifically by appearing as a line item in a governor's budget.
Gov. Kulongoski said previously that the budget listing was a misprint.
But with the center being the only psychiatric hospital in Eastern Oregon, she said she isn't overly concerned about the facility's future.
"From what's proposed early on, a lot of changes will happen," she said. "We go through these exercises every year. I think it's best not to anticipate or get worried. The staff is operating business as usual."
Any closure of one of the wards would take "quite a bit of time," she said.
The governor's budget does not explain how services would be redistributed.
East Oregonian reporter Andrew Binion contributed to the story.