Families of Gracewood patients upset about hospital closing

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, June 13, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- After more than 40 years of serving the Augusta community, the Gracewood Hospital is closing its doors, and families of the patients are fired up. They want the doors to stay open because it's home for their loved ones.

"I'm afraid for all of them, and it seems like they're the forgotten children that nobody cares about," said Beverly Lowenstein.

It's a feeling she has had on her heart for quite some time now.

She loves her job but misses her favorite client who's now too sick to sit in her chair at her salon.

"She's had a stroke, she's had brain surgery, she's totally incompetent, and I'm her legal guardian," she told News 12.

Her baby sister, Pamela, came to Gracewood when she was just 11 years old. She's now in her 50s.

"They're whole life has been spent at Gracewood, that's the only home they know," she said.

But soon, those patients, including her sister, will have to find new homes.

By 2015, all of its patients will be transitioned out of institutional care into group homes.

"When she was younger, she was in a few group homes, they didn't work out, she didn't cope well," she explained.

After a violent outburst, her sister was sent to jail then to Milledgeville.

It took all of Lowenstein's energy to get her sister back at Gracewood.

"I will move mountains if I have to, to do what I can to keep her there," Lowenstein said.

But until she can find a mountain to move, she has a lot of questions.

"Why should they take a perfectly good institution and close it and leave it empty, why?" she asked.

So far, no one has been able to give her the answers she's looking for.

"When my sister's there, I can go to sleep at night," Lowenstein said. "I think if my sister is put in a group home, she will be dead within six months to a year."

It's a thought that brings her to tears. She says she just wants her little sister where she belongs and where she's happy.

"It is home, it's her home, that's the only home she knows, and she's almost 55 years old, but she's still that little girl," she said.

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