It’s official as the Missouri Mental Health Task Force issues its final report to the governor. The report contains 25 recommendations to correct the abuse and neglect of mental health patients. Governor Blunt formed the task force after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a series of articles detailing the abuse of mental patients under the care of the state, patients in both state facilities and community centers with state contracts. The articles concentrated on the years 2000 to 2004, a period in which the State Auditor also investigated the Department of Mental Health. Some of the abuse during that period turned fatal. The reports linked 21 deaths to abuse and neglect at both private and public facilities. Mental Health Department Interim Director Ron Dittemore says the department has already implemented some recommendations, many of them having to do with the sensitivity of its staff. Dittemore says staff complacency about reported abuse will not be tolerated. Dittemore co-chaired the task force along with Lt. Governor Peter Kinder who emphasizes the report calls for more transparency in how the department investigates cases. Kinder says the legislature found a few years ago when reviewing juvenile and foster care issues that secrecy is an invitation to abuse. Among the recommendations: more money to attract quality mental health staff, better staff training, increased penalties for failure to report abuse and neglect and accreditation of all state habilitation centers.
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