The state mental health department gets a new leader who says the department must focus on keeping promises and keeping clients safe. He’s been there before but the mental health department Keith Schafer will inherit is much different from the mental health department he left as director in 19-94. The staff is smaller, the amount of money it spends on services has gone up. Shafer admits returning to the directorship with some biases, one being that consumers should have a greater voice in program design and operation. He says the Mental Health Commission has made it clear that families don’t have more to fear from coming to the agency for help than they do from the condition that brought them to it. He expects the department’s programs to continue changing…but he and the commission know that improved client safety is one of the keys to getting and keeping public trust. Shafer won’t endorse the governor’s desire to close the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis. He’s not rejecting it either. But he says the department must keep its commitments made decades ago to families that the department will take care of their children. The question, he says, is what the services will look like and how they can be modernized to become more effective.
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