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DHS proposes to close Mount Pleasant MHI

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Services would be moved to Independence MHI

DES MOINES - Department of Human Services Director Charles

Krogmeier Monday submitted a proposal to close the Mental Health

Institute in Mount Pleasant and move all of the services provided there

This week's Department of Human Services proposal to close the Mount Pleasant MHI, was welcome news to the Cherokee MHI (pictured). But Dr. Dan Gillette, Superindendent of the Cherokee MHI, said "we're not out of the woods yet." The Iowa State Legislature has final say on which of the four MHI's will be closed. Photo by Mike Leckband
to the MHI in Independence.

The proposal is in response to a mandate approved by the Legislature

last spring requiring Krogmeier to recommend closing one of the four

institutes without loss of services.

Although the reprieve was welcomed news in Cherokee and Northwest Iowa, the DHS recommendation is not final and still needs legislative action in the 2010 session to become reality.

"It's great to have the DHS endorsement in this matter, but the Legislature may or may not go for it," said Dr. Dan Gillette, Superindendent of the Cherokee MHI, "so we're not out of the woods yet. The Legislature can still do anything."

If the Iowa Legislature follows through with the DHS proposal, the Cherokee MHI would be ripe to house the dual diagnosis substance abuse services from the Independence MHI if the Mount Pleasant MHI services all go to Independence. That theory is buttressed by the fact the Cherokee MHI has the necessary expertise already on staff with the Jackson Recovery Center of Sioux City already in place here. "We'd be well-equpped to handle something like that," answered Gillette to that very question.

While decrying the fact that one of the State's four MHIs might be closed when the announcement of the formation of the Task Force was made this past summer, Gillette also acknowledged that closing one MHI would serve to strengthen the other three.

Gillette urges the public to continue to contact legislators to show support for the Cherokee MHI and the outstanding job it does with its many and varied mental health services.

Mark Buschkamp, Director of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation, is coordinating local lobbying efforts. The Cherokee County Board of Supervisors also plans to organize a community bus trip to the State House in January to lobby for the Cherokee MHI. It is hoped many from this community and all of Northwest Iowa make the effort to contact legislators now and also make the trip to Des Moines in January before a decision is made.

A special Task Force assembled to visit and evaluate the four Iowa MHIs this past fall recently recommended to the DHS not to close any of the MHIs, but to streamline services within each MHI community.

However, the DHS did what it was charged to do by the Legislature and recommended closing one of the four MHIs.

"The quality of service at the MHI in Mount Pleasant is beyond question

and I want everyone to know that this recommendation is no reflection

whatsoever on the dedication and expertise of our staff, which is

outstanding," Krogmeier said.

Given the legislative requirement, Krogmeier said he decided to

recommend a closure that would cause the least economic fallout for

staff and the community, the least disruption for families of patients,

and the most opportunities for improving the mental health system.

The impact on the state budget would depend on how legislators decided

to close the facility. Two years from now, in fiscal 2012, the annual

general fund net savings would be about $1.7 million. The net savings or

cost in fiscal 2011 would depend on whether employees were offered

moving expenses to relocate to comparable jobs in Independence.

Mount Pleasant has 108 employees, compared to 100 at Clarinda, 201 at

Cherokee, and 267 at Independence.

Mount Pleasant has an operational budget of $8.8 million, the second

smallest of the four MHIs. Clarinda's budget is $8.6 million, while the

MHIs at Independence and Cherokee have budgets of $21.1 million and

$16.1 million.

All four MHIs are more than a century old. Over the last several

decades, large portions of the campuses at Mount Pleasant and Clarinda

have been utilized as prisons by the Department of Corrections.

All four MHIs offer acute adult psychiatric services, with Mount

Pleasant's being the smallest unit at 14 beds. There are 40 at

Independence, 46 at Cherokee, and 20 at Clarinda.

All four also offer specialized services. Mount Pleasant is the only MHI

to offer substance abuse treatment (a 50-bed unit, with approximately

half of admissions coming from Polk County), and a 15-bed "dual

diagnosis" unit for individuals with both mental illness and substance

abuse issues.

Krogmeier said he recognized the negative impact on the community at

Mount Pleasant, but he said part of the loss could be offset if the

Legislature decides to use the vacated space to expand the prison there.

The Cherokee facility - Iowa's largest with 637,038 square footage of buildings and structures - provides inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services for adults, children, and adolescents. Outpatient services include psychiatric diagnosis, medication management, individual therapy, and family therapy.

The Cherokee MHI serves adults for 41 counties in Northwest Iowa, and children and adolescents from 55 counties. Clinical staff assistance is available around the clock seven days a week. According to Gillette, about 90-percent of the Cherokee patients are sent to the MHI by a court order.

The Cherokee MHI also leases space for a variety of clinical and family services, among them Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services Office, the Pride Group, Jackson Recovery Center, Juvenile Court Services, DHS Targeted Case Management Offices, Youth Emergency Services, Northwest Community Empowerment, and Cherokee County Board of Supervisors.

The Cherokee MHI Campus also houses the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO).

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