At Friday's Quarterly meeting of the MHI/CCUSO Citizens' Advisory Board, members of the Board heard about something which CCUSO Superintendent Jason Smith said has been a "very useful tool" for the CCUSO Program.
Rick Dolleslager, an independent Polygrapher with a background in Corrections and Law Enforcement, travels to the CCUSO Unit on an average of twice a month to administer a polygraph test to CCUSO patients. Some of these tests are administered because of a specific concern or incident, while others are part of a maintenance program. Dolleslager got his training in polygraphy at Annapolis, Maryland and initially used an analog machine. Now, however, all of his testing is done digitally, on a laptop computer. The computer has a program on it for administering polygraphy tests for sex offenders and is also able to score the patients' test answers based on physiological measures of his breathing, respiration, and blood pressure.
Dolleslager said the testing has been proven to be at least 90% accurate in determining patients' truthfulness in regards to the 8-12 "yes or no" questions he asks.
In other business at Friday's meeting, MHI Nursing Director Jane Campbell reported on the MHI's educational program for students. MHI has college students in the fields of social work, Physician's Assistant and Pharmacy who receive training in Psychiatry at MHI, and they also have nursing students from seven different schools who come to MHI for their practical education in psychiatry. These schools include Briar Cliff University, Northwestern College, Northwest Community College, Western Iowa Tech Community College, Iowa Central Community College, Iowa Lakes Community College and Presentation College in Fairmont, Minnesota.
Campbell said that student nurses now spend less time at the MHI than in previous years, receiving only about 4-6 days of psychiatric training there, as opposed to the weeks they received before. The classes, which average about 20-25 students per class, are usually spread out over several weeks, as each school is assigned a specific day or days that they come to MHI.
John Montgomery of the MHI Maintenance Department gave a report on MHI Property and Maintenance projects this summer. Montgomery said it's been an interesting summer in the main building due to such things as lightning strikes, power outages and discontinuation of parts needed for replacement, but that they have worked through these problems and continue to maintain an active repair and maintenance schedule.
Another problem this summer has been caring for the institute's grounds. There is no Grounds Crew per se at MHI, despite the massive amount of real estate it encompasses, so the mowing and other lawn care is done by Maintenance workers, after they are caught up on their other duties. The good news is that the grass has not been growing much this summer due to the lack of precipitation. Montgomery was apologetic, however, about the current condition of the grounds, as weeds need to be tended to. The Board members said that "it still looks pretty good," though.
The Maintenance Department, as well as Nursing, has been struggling to keep the number of overtime hours they work to a minimum, but it has been difficult to manage due to the large number of voluntary early retirements a couple of years ago and the low number of hirings that have received state approval.
Superintendent Smith said that adult admissions for the MHI were down slightly this year, from 234 in FY2011 to 207 in FY2012, but that admissions for the Children's/Adolescent Unit increased, from 195 to 239, due largely to the addition of more beds for that unit. The Adult Unit currently has 24 beds and the Children/Adolescents has 12. Smith said that, though adult admissions are down slightly, the average length of stay for adult patients has increased, as they currently have a handful of patients who have been at MHI for an extended period of time, due to a serious lack of placement opportunities.
MHI currently has 178.5 positions for full-time employees and CCUSO has 89.5, which Business Manager Chris Tofteberg said is pretty much as it has been for the last couple of years, following the mass exodus of long-time employees. The MHI staff feel that they have been able to continue providing quality care for their patients, despite the reductions in staff and funding.
Tofteberg reported that this year's budget status looks good. Last year, they were able to complete several long-overdue maintenance projects, which should help keep costs down this year.
Superintendent Smith said that CCUSO currently has 99 patients, and the average age of those patients is 49. He reminded the advisory board that with their recent expansion, the CCUSO facilities can now handle 150 patients, and he believes that by 2015, the CCUSO census will probably be in the neighborhood of 130.