Gillette hosted the meeting in the J.May Room at the CMHI. About 25 area business members and concerned citizens, along with the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors, listened as Gillette updated the group of the state's procedure of a proposal to possibly close one of the four MHI facilities.
The first step is the MHI Closure Task Force touring and evaluating each of the facilities and delivering their reports and recommendations to the Iowa Department of Human Services.
The Task Force reviewed the Cherokee MHI on September 15 and subsequently has reviewed the MHIs in Independence and Clarinda. Mount Pleasant's MHI is scheduled to be reviewed on Monday.
Gillette advised the group that the Task Force's Cherokee site visit "went fabulously well," thanks to the MHI staff's preparations, and the public's incredible show of support during the public hearing portion of the day-long meeting.
Mark Buschkamp of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation attended all of the Task Force meetings so far and reported that meetings in Independence and Clarinda went much like they did in Cherokee. One distinguishing difference Buschkamp stated was that the other facilities' representatives asked the Task Force not to close any of the States MHIs, not just theirs. He also said they had representatives at the Cherokee MHI site visit and copied Cherokee's presentation to the letter.
"They say imitation is the best form of flattery," said Buschkamp.
It was obvious that Cherokee had set the bar high with the high turnout and support during its review, and it was the feeling of both Buschkamp and Gillette that the noted unity of all four facilities was missed during the Cherokee review.
Gillette informed the group that after all of the Task Force reviews are complete and the DHS recommendation is given to the State Legislature, the final decision on closing one of the MHIs will boil down to a political decision from the Legislature itself.
Acknowledging the lack of heavy political firepower that the northwest Iowa region has compared to the other regions, it was suggested in the group to start a lobbying campaign to keep a face on the Cherokee MHI with state Senators and Representatives.
Also Cherokee County Supervisor Chairman Jeff Simonsen volunteered the Board's help in securing buses to take a trip down the Capital in January during the Iowa Funnel Session to meet the legislators face to face.
Gillette also focused on several positive notes regarding the Cherokee MHI. Much of the feedback Gillette has received has been extremely positive regarding the care and public support of the Cherokee MHI. He proceeded to site the example of the National Alliance for Mental Illness recent meeting held in Spencer to be strong advocates for the Cherokee MHI. He also emphasized a call the institution received from a New Hampshire State Mental Hospital to get advice from the Cherokee MHI on patients' review. The Cherokee MHI had been recommended by a national organization.
Gillette also noted the article published in the "Briefing in a Joint Commission" about Cherokee MHI regarding procedures the Cherokee MHI had implemented in reducing mistakes on drug names with a computer program, plus a recent interview for national publication of "American Hospital Administration" to be published soon.
The group's next noon meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3, with meetings also scheduled for Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 in the J.May Room at the Cherokee MHI.
Those interested in attending these meeting, or interested in serving on the committee, are asked to contact Marci Brown at 225-5739, or firstname.lastname@example.org.