Missouri Mental Health Task Force members move closer to the final recommendations they will make to Governor Blunt. A draft report by the task force contains 20 recommendations to prevent and report the abuse and neglect of mental patients. It also has recommendations for the oversight of the Department of Mental Health. Among the recommendations is that the salaries of mental health workers be substantially raised. Task Force Co-Chairman, Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, won’t directly say budget cuts have hurt the situation, but he does say that budget cuts and staffing issues haven’t helped as administrators with the Department of Mental Health have had to use overtime, which has stretched staff too thin. Governor Blunt formed the task force in wake of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch series on mental patient abuse and neglect at state facilities as well as private centers that contract with the state. Blunt has recommended that the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis County be closed, because of abuse there. One of the recommendations of the task force states that “no habilitation center should be closed as long as there is a need for its continued operation.” That recommendation raises the question of whether it refers to Bellefontaine. Kinder believes the recommendation will stay in the report. He doesn’t believe it will go any further and mention any center specifically. Other recommendations in the draft report include working toward accreditation of the state’s habilitation centers, fining licensed providers that fail to correct mistakes and opening investigation records to the public. The task force plans to meet again early next month. It hopes to have its recommendation to the governor by the end of November.
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