"Healthcare" now the largest employer in Baldwin County, replacing "state of Georgia"


A lot can change in 21 years, and a lot will change in 21 years.

Baldwin County's labor force, for one, most definitely has changed. In 2002, for example, a total of 30.6 percent of all jobs in Baldwin County were considered "state government jobs," according to the Georgia Department of Labor's database. 

Back then, Baldwin always went back and forth with Clarke County in terms of the county with the highest percentage of  "state jobs" in Georgia. There were roughly 6,000 state jobs in Baldwin County back around the turn of the century.

Fast forward to 2023, and the percentage of state jobs in Baldwin County was placed at 17.3, and the total number of state jobs was 2,695, with the overwhelming majority of those being accounted for by Georgia College & State University and the Baldwin County School District. 

Meanwhile, "healthcare and social services" has been the second of three large trends in Baldwin County's labor force in the last two decades, largely a result of baby boomers getting grayer. In 2002, there were 2,178 "healthcare and social services" jobs in Baldwin County, according to the Department of Labor's database. That figure represented 11.2 percent of jobs in the county. By 2023, the number of "healthcare and social service" jobs was 3,038, representing 19.5 percent of all jobs in Baldwin.

The third large trend has been the decline in manufacturing jobs. In 2002, there were 3,249 jobs in manufacturing, acording to the Department of Labor. This represented 16.8 percent of all local jobs. By 2023, that number was down to 1,157, representing a mere 7.4 percent of local jobs. 

In other words, Baldwin County now has roughly 2,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than it did around the turn of the century. Three different factories closed in 2010 and 2011, including the supersized Rheem Manufacturing plant, which decided to "ir a Mexico."

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Getting back to state jobs, Baldwin County has lost somewhere in the ballpark of 3,000 since 2002. Baldwin first began getting clobbered after the Great Recession, when the state of Georgia began closing numerous old state prisons, including a whopping four in Hardwick. First up was Rivers State Prison in the summer of 2008, which put roughly 300 people out of work. Then came Scott State Prison in the summer of 2009, which equaled another 250-300 job losses. Bostick Prison then closed in 2010 and Men's State Prison the following year.

These days, the only people working around the old state prison buildings are Youtubers looking for clout...

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The other big blow, of course, was the drastic downsizing of Central State Hospital. Today, all that remains of Central State is the Cook Building, which houses individuals deemed by a court as "mentally unfit to stand trial," as well as some administrative jobs at the Allen Building. 

The dismantling of Central State began in early 2009, during the middle of the Great Recession, as if things weren't already complicated enough. Piece by piece, building by building, entire units at Central State eventually were shut down and employees laid off en masse. Another 250-300 state jobs would be eliminated the following year in 2013, when the Craig Nursing Center closed down, and the very last of Central State's developmentally disabled clients were moved into "community settings."

At the time, "community settings" was all the rage around the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and group homes supposedly were the magic bullet for mental health in Georgia. The DOJ sued the state of Georgia, and the state ultimately agreed to begin emptying out its mental hospitals and finding "community settings" for all of its developmentally disabled clients.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, back when it yielded way more power of persuasion than it does now, also jumped in around this same time, writing a series of damning articles about Central State and Georgia's other mental health hospitals. The AJC then came over the top with several super flattering articles about group homes and the many benefits of group homes.

To its credit, seven or eight years later, the AJC published a series of in-depth articles on group homes and serious problems at group homes. Wrote the AJC in 2015:

But, the newspaper found, many (clients) appear to be no better off — or, in some cases, even worse off — now than when they lived in the state’s dangerous and dysfunctional psychiatric facilities.

Few lead meaningful lives in their new communities, according to a court-appointed consultant. They have little say over where they live, or with whom. Medical care can be sketchy. Often, group homes and adult foster homes don’t hire enough caregivers or don’t adequately train the ones they employ. Residents are dispersed across the state, sometimes far from family members or others who might keep watch over their treatment. If disabled people were simply warehoused in state hospitals, as their advocates often asserted, now it is as if they have been placed in small, isolated storage units that easily elude attention.

Most ominously, residents of many group homes have encountered similar patterns of mistreatment that plagued the state hospitals.

At least three-fourths of the facilities have been cited for violating standards of care or have been investigated over patient deaths or abuse and neglect reports since 2010. Officials have documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse, 48 of neglect, and 60 accidental injuries. In 93 other cases, group home residents allegedly assaulted one another, their caregivers or others.

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I thought the criminally insane were still there too. Those incident number seem low. Mayhap unreported. I can’t tell you how many times I had to change a state patients diapers before getting their X-rays. I shan’t get into the amout of boom boom but I will say when I finally reached skin it was CEMENTED on there. They shouldn’t have shut the state down. We need it now. There’s only 21 rooms in the ER and there are a lot of psych patients in this town. They live in the hospital for days at least sometimes months. We don’t have the space.

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