It was mostly good news when the Citizens Advisory Board met at the Mental Health Institute here last week for their quarterly meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Smith introduced Dr. Stewart Fern as the new Clinical Director of MHI, which is now a contractual position. Dr. Fern previously worked as a psychiatrist at the Cherokee MHI several years ago and he is currently working with patients on the child/adolescent ward in addition to his duties as Clinical Director.
Business Manager Chris Tofteberg reported on the recent twice-a-year Business Managers meeting of business managers from around the state. He said the new directors of the Department of Management and Department of Administrative Services were introduced to the group at that meeting and budget issues and the AFSME Contract were the focus of the meeting.
Tofteberg said the MHI at Cherokee was granted supplemental appropriations for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year. Looking ahead to FY 2012, it is hoped that Cherokee MHI will be able to fill some critical positions that are currently vacant. It is also hoped that MHI will regain six children/adolescent beds before the new fiscal year begins.Tofteberg said that MHI is "back in the hiring mood," and interviewing has been in the process for 12 full time and part time positions in the nursing department, including an RN Supervisor position, RN positions, and Residential Treatment Worker positions.
Dr. Smith gave an update on the Psychiatric Physician position at MHI, saying a mid-level position has been filled, and Diane Simons will begin working at the end of May. Simons previously completed her fellowship program at the MHI in Cherokee.
Dr. Smith said that MHI is still in the process of hiring a full time Psychiatrist.
Smith also reported that even though MHI has fewer beds than before, the admission rate is up. He also said that the six beds that are to be added back are staying in the budget and positions will be approved for hiring to accommodate staffing. Once funding is approved, MHI could have the beds up and running by July 1, 2011, rather than waiting for FY 2012 to start. He added that additional adult beds are also possible in FY 2012.
Dr. Smith issued a handout that showed a revamp of the Mental Health Redesign. A discussion was held among the Central Points Coordinators and their thoughts and concerns were brought to Dr. Smith's attention. Among the questions they raised were :
Will rural areas be without services? What services will be offered, and what will the level of programming be? Will there be a lack of appropriate resources?
What will be the quality of life for clients with the services provided? The proposed re-design is so large and moving very quickly, will the cost be high? They are already "grasping at straws" to get services for clients, and services are being taken away despite the fact that there are more complicated cases than before; creative court rulings are being done to utilize services for individuals; Who will navigate the new system?
Dr. Smith reported that CCUSO (Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Ofenders) patients have a new system to help move and progress in treatment. They are entering into Phase/Behavioral contracts, issuing contracts to patients so they can work toward their next phase of treatment or transitional release; patients are committed to the process, and feel they have a clear path for their individual outcome; this has created less time spent in court, with a savings in attorney costs, and has also brought about less cost and traveling with staffing.
A tour of the CCUSO project, the last of the three phases of construction, was provided to CAB members at the conclusion of the meeting. The project is expected to be completed this summer, and upon completion, CCUSO will be able to occupy all of the wards on the south side of the building, bringing CCUSO capacity to 150 committed patients.
The next Citizens Advisory Meeting will be July 22, 2011.