Rusk State Hospital Employees Worried About Their Jobs

Rusk State Hospital employees fear they may soon lose their patients and their jobs. Ray Christopher has worked as a therapist technician at Rusk State Hospital for 30 years.

"It would make a big impact financially. My wife and I both work here," says Ray Christopher, Rusk State Hospital employee.

He's like hundreds of employees who can't imagine how they'll survive financially if the Texas Legislature closes the state hospital's doors.

"I need my job and she needs her job to support our family," says Christopher.

Right now there's been no talk of which state mental hospital would stop serving mentally ill patients.

"The thing that was in the legislative appropriation request didn't say what hospital would be closed," says Ted Debbs, CEO Rusk State Hospital. "But, it did say the resulting closure would eliminate 930 employees on the MH side and 240 available beads."

"I ask people not to jump to conclusions that what's a possibility will be reality," says Governor Rick Perry. "But, here's reality, we have a budget that has cooled."

Rusk State Hospital is the second largest employer in the city. Monthly, the city would lose $1,958,195 in salaries and $23,498,340 in a year.

"In the rural East Texas area, there are not a lot of good paying jobs for our profession," says Brian Kozlovsky, employee.

Brian Kozlovsky and his wife Marla both stand to lose their jobs. They believe it would be devastating to the economy to lose nearly 900 jobs in a city of about 5,000. The projected economic impact on the community in a month is a loss of at least $13,707,365. On an annual basis, that translates into Cherokee County area losing $164,488,380 because former employees won't have money to spend.

I am trying to keep an open optimistic attitude that those making decisions will see the impact on the community and the patients," says Marla Kozlovsky, employee. "So I have not thought of life outside of rusk state hospital, I was hoping to be here 25 plus years."

A task force has been set up in Cherokee County to help save Rusk State Hospital. They're even considering hiring a lobbyist to appeal to state legislators.

Dana Dixon, reporting