Plans call for the Raleigh hospital to stop accepting new patients within weeks, with most of the remaining patients being discharged or transferred to other state facilities by the end of the year. The oldest of the state's four state psychiatric hospitals, Dix has been in continuous operation since 1856.
In a written news release, the NAACP predicted that many patients, most of whom the group said are black and poor, will be scattered in homeless shelters, on the streets or in jail as winter approaches. The treatment of the workers at Dix who are losing their jobs in the midst of a recession, most of whom are minorities, is equally calloused and inhumane, the group said.
"How a society treats its people who suffer mental illness is a measure of that society," said the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the state NAACP, according to the release.
Lanier Cansler, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services, has said Dix must close due to budget constraints. Several groups, including the Wake chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, held a march in downtown Raleigh last month to protest the closure plan.