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Residents fight to keep Catawba Hospital open

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WYTHEVILLE (WSLS 10) - Hundreds of people from across Southwest Virginia came to Wytheville to keep a mental health facility from closing its doors.

Wytheville Community College held one of four budget hearings that took place across Virginia Thursday. The big topic of discussion: Governor McAuliffe's proposal to shut down Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County. He wants to dedicate more money to community services that could help people before they need hospitalization.

"We are here in full force today to oppose the closing of Catawba Hospital," said Mary Wilson, who works in the mental health field.

People from all walks of life took the podium to defend the facility including police officers, mental health professionals and even former Catawba patients.

"It doesn't make logical sense to me to close Catawba," said state Senator Bill Carrico. "I think it's obvious the Governor doesn't understand Southwest Virginia."

Economic development experts argue the Roanoke Valley would lose $26 million a year and 380 jobs if Catawba shuts down, but that's not the only issue and concern for opponents. For many patients, Staunton, which is a 100 mile drive for some patients, would be the closest facility without Catawba.

The General Assembly will begin discussing this proposal and others on January 13th.