At a recent Rotary Club meeting in Rome, State Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) claimed President Obama was responsible for closing Northwest Regional Hospital. She also claimed that President Biden was “keeping it closed.” Researchers have found that neither claim is factual. The hospital was closed in 2011 by then-Governor Nathan Deal, a decision that continues to impact Rome and Floyd County negatively.

When the hospital was closed, 800 hospital staff lost jobs, and dozens of patients had to find somewhere to live and someone to manage their needs. These patients faced insurmountable problems even if they had families to care for them. Community-based resources were non-existent or not sufficiently funded. As a result, many became homeless or found themselves in jail. Community-based systems were overwhelmed, and the effects continue to be felt in 2024.

Dempsey served on the state’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council and knows the hospital closure circumstances. Dempsey parroted promises made by Governor Deal at the time that resources were in place to provide high-quality care in the community. No resources were allotted, and once the decision was made, nothing was done to reverse the disaster that followed for many of the former patients. Dempsey’s claims of a federal impact proved false as the closure was done in a state-level decision.

US Senators Ossoff and Warnock recently secured $2 million to help with the cleanup of the hospital site, which has been sold to our local development authority under Governor Brian Kemp in September of 2021. The hope is that redevelopment of that site will create new, good-paying jobs in the heart of our county. In the meantime, Rome and Floyd County continue to grapple with the impact of the decision to close Northwest Regional Hospital on those who were left homeless and without needed services.

(In 2007, families of patients at seven of Georgia’s psychiatric hospitals sued the state of Georgia due to poor treatment and care at these facilities. 42 Rome families were involved in that case (Olmstead v. L.C.). Federal Courts and the Dept. of Justice found care lacking and ordered Georgia to improve patient care and monitor progress or lack thereof. Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities decided closing hospitals and moving patients to community-based care would be less expensive. The problem was the state was not prepared to provide or manage community-based care or the complexity of the problem.)  

For more information on the care and well-being of patients with mental illness and developmental disabilities, see