Hastings Chamber Collecting Money to Keep Regional Centers

By: Jason Knight
By: Jason Knight

Three hundred jobs and up to $15 million in payroll will be lost if the Hastings Regional Center is closed under Governor Mike Johann's new bill on mental health care, but that is not why many people are concerned.

The bill calls for the closing of the regional centers in Norfolk and Hastings. Governor Johanns says community based health care will provide better assistance to patients and cost less because of Medicaid dollars.

Tom Hastings, the Hastings Chamber of Commerce President, feels mental health patients would be better served by keeping the regional centers open. He says hospitals, shelters and jails would end up housing many of the patients who would normally be under 24-hour care.

Hastings and the Chamber are working to create an educational campaign to give facts to state senators and the public. Hastings says once they have the facts, there will be no way they will go with the governor's plan.

The Chamber has asked for $25 donations from its 650 members. They hope to raise up to $15,000 for commercials and to hire someone to help them lobby their case in the legislature.

So far the group has collected $4,000 in only a few days.

Hastings also feels mental health care is moving away from Greater Nebraska under the governor's plan. The only regional center remaining open under the bill is in Lincoln.


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