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      Fulton state hospital workers fight for jobs, clients

      Union workers from the Fulton State Hospital delivered hundreds of petition cards to the governor's office on Thursday to fight to save their jobs and their services.

      The workers face desperate times. They've been told that, beginning fairly soon and continuing through the end of next year, as many as 200 of their colleagues could lose their jobs at the hospital.

      "They wouldn't give us a list of who was gonna be losin' their jobs or who was gonna be displaced into another position," Fulton State Hospital Employee James Goodwin said.

      Goodwin said that they were basically told to prepare for the worst.

      The Nixon Administration wants to eliminate the acute care, in-patient beds at Fulton State Hospital and release dozens of mental health clients.

      "There are a number of people in minimum security who, we believe , can be served quite well in the community with the right type of services and support, Department of Mental Health Mark Stringer said. These are not people who are dangerous to other people.

      The workers said the clients in question suffer from schizophrenia and some have been at Fulton most of their lives. The workers said these people will not do well on the outside.

      "We're not just talkin' about jobs, Psychiatric Nurse Karen Morts said. We're talkin about mental health clients that have no place to place to go. And that's what this is really about.

      Last week, the American Federation of State, county, and municipal employees proposed alternatives, including cuts in contracted state services and the elimination of tax breaks for developers.

      "AFSCME members are here today to say, 'Enough,' AFSCME Political Director John Noonan said. Enough to the constant degrading of the services Missourians rely on most. Enough of the unnecessary job cuts that hurt our economy. And enough to the free ride that contractors and developers are getting.

      The senate appropriations committee wrapped up work on the mental health budget this week.

      There was a lot of talk about cuts to the state hospital in Nevada, Mo.

      Nothing was said in committee about Fulton.