MT. VERNON, Ala. (WALA) - Searcy Hospital in Mt. Vernon employs 390 people and takes care of 250 patients. But officials said the state plans to close the hospital by the end of September.
This could leave all of those workers out of a job. Wednesday, The Alabama Department of Mental Health announced the plan that would close Searcy and three other mental health institutions throughout the state.
Mt. Vernon Mayor Jerry Lundy estimates that about 40 percent of their employees live in the Mt. Vernon area. For the town of just 1,600 people, news of the pending closure is troubling.
"The loss of the jobs up there is going to have a big impact, and we're saddened by the closing of it," Lundy said. "We've got the bank, the hardware store, grocery store, convenience stores. They'll all be impacted. And of course, that will impact the town, too, in the loss of sales revenue."
Timothy Witherspoon owns Bar-B-Quing with my Honey, a barbeque restaurant on Highway 43. He knows losing Searcy will have a big impact on his business.
"I think it's sad to lose a major company like that, because it employs a lot of people up in this area, and we do get quite a few business from that location," Witherspoon said. "They come and eat lunch with us, eat dinner with us all through the day."
Searcy Hospital has been part of the Mt. Vernon community for decades, and some of the buildings date back to the 1800s. If you ask around, it's hard to find someone who either didn't have a family member who worked at Searcy or know somebody who worked there.
Barbara Johnson used to work at the hospital, and so did her mother. She said to her, the facility has a special meaning.
"I just hate that they're closing it, and they should make some type of historical setting for the people of Mt. Vernon," Johnson said.
Mayor Lundy agrees and is already planning a strategy to that end.
"We're going to do what's necessary," he said. "If we have to go to Montgomery and meet with the mental health commissioner or the governor or whatever, we want to take that route if we have to."
As for saving revenues, Lundy said businesses in recently annexed Calvert, just to the north of town, will help make up some of the losses.
The state plans to keep two mental health facilities open, both in Tuscaloosa. Residents will either be moved to one of those facilities, other hospitals or into community based care. Officials with the Alabama Department of Mental Health said they will be relocating as many employees as possible to other facilities.
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