Trying to help save Piedmont Geriatric Hospital

Published 9:02 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

With crossover now behind us, the Virginia General Assembly is well on its way to completing this year’s session. Crossover means that, for the closing weeks of the session, the House will be considering and debating only bills filed by senators, while the Senate will be reviewing legislation submitted by delegates.

This system of reviewing legislation has served the commonwealth exceptionally well for a very long time. It is structured to ensure we can consider a large volume of measures in a short period of time. And with over 2,000 bills filed this session alone, a stringent and efficient system for reviewing legislation is essential.

While lawmakers submitted nearly 2,200 bills for consideration this session, fewer than 1,000 were still alive by the crossover deadline. As the scrutiny continues in the remaining weeks, that number will continue to diminish. And after we adjourn on March 12, Gov. Terry McAuliffe will have his opportunity to weigh in as he considers the bills passed during the 60 days.    

During this session, I’ve been working on a variety of issues. One of my priorities has been to reverse the McAuliffe administration’s decision to close Piedmont Geriatric Hospital. Working with my colleagues who serve on the appropriations committee and with delegates in the Roanoke area who have been trying to save a similar facility in their region, I am encouraged that the House budget eliminates $1 million in the introduced budget to begin the planning process to close Catawba Hospital and Piedmont Geriatric Hospital.

There is broad agreement among lawmakers that these closures are not in the best interests of the patients. While the plan has been to relocate these older patients, places that can accommodate them are in very short supply. Keeping Piedmont Geriatric operational is the only realistic option currently available.

The challenge of dealing with elderly patients in need of inpatient treatment for mental illness is not unique to Virginia. States across the nation are grappling with the difficulties of aging patients needing long-term care. I am encouraged that so many of my colleagues appreciate this challenge and understand the need for a facility like Piedmont Geriatric Hospital.   

If you’ll be visiting the Capitol over the next three weeks, please stop by our offices in Room 811 of the General Assembly building if you have time. I’ll have more details on the progress of reaching an agreement on Virginia’s budget in next week’s column. Until then, have a great week.

Del. Tommy Wright represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia House of Delegates and is a resident of the county. He can be contacted at