- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some mental health advocates are questioning the city of Raleigh’s plans to turn the old Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital into a park.

Mental health advocates attended the city council meeting Tuesday where plans for the 325-acre property were discussed, The News & Observer of Raleigh (https://bit.ly/1eRkHD8) reported. They accused city leaders of failing to consider the needs of people with mental illness.

But Mayor Nancy McFarlane said that the choice about the property is not one between a park and a mental-health facility. State mental health officials closed the hospital and moved patients to a newer facility in Butner. The state does plan to keep about 60 acres for Department of Health and Human Services offices. No treatment facilities are planned at the site.

Raleigh does not provide mental-health services. But Ellen Betts Clemmer told the council the site should have space for affordable housing for the mentally ill or an outpatient treatment center.

“Please don’t forget the people who lived there and the people to whom this land has belonged,” Clemmer said.

The city is working with the state on a new lease or sale agreement for the land after an earlier deal was rejected.

Others raised questions about the costs.

Louise Fisher, a mental health advocate whose daughter was a patient at Dix, said she’s concerned about new appraisals and environmental reports.

“The appraisals failed to mention all the hazardous sites on the campus,” Fisher said, pointing to asbestos, medical waste and underground oil drums.

A separate environmental study said it would cost $765,602 to clean the site for a park.

McFarlane said planning for the park will take several years and there will be time for the public to comment on the ideas.

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Information from: The News & Observer, https://www.newsobserver.com

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