Recommendations for change at the Department of Mental Health have been approved by a special task force formed by the governor. Procedure would be changed and staff would get a lot of attention under the recommendations made by the Mental Health Task Force formed by Governor Blunt after a series of high-profile patient abuse cases, some resulting in death. Interim Mental Health Director, Ron Dittemore, says the recommendations should lead to positive changes. Dittemore says the main concern of the Mental Health Department at present is to create a safe environment for its mentally-ill and developmentally disabled patients, both in state facilities and in community providers with state contracts. Among the recommendations is that the department seek accreditation of its six habilitation centers and contracted community providers, something the department has already pledged to do. The task force recommends the department establish ties with the adult abuse hotline now used by the Department of Health and Senior Services. It urges that consumers and families be trained to better report abuse and neglect. Better pay is recommended for Mental Health Department workers to fill vacancies and retain staff. Fines and other punishment would be meted out to facilities that fail to implement changes if violations are found. The task force never directly addressed Governor Blunt’s proposal to close the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis, instead settling on language that says no habilitation center should be closed as long as there is a need for its continued operation. But it adds that any habilitation center for which there is no need should be closed. A special board similar to the Child Fatality Review Board used by the Department of Social Services would be established to review deaths of adults under the care of the Mental Health Department, under another recommendation made by the task force. Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, task force co-chair, says lawmakers understand the Mental Health Department needs more money to address past problems and seem willing to do that. The task force has approved the final language. The report is going through a final proof-read and will be released to the public soon.
Related web sites:
Missouri Mental Health Task Force