commission makes mental health recommendations
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commission makes mental health recommendations

Date: August 23, 2006
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The state's Mental Health Commission released a report outlining 23 recommendations to improve Missouri's mental health system. 

"Obviously the system has some problems that need to be fixed, and I think the scrutiny that is being put on it is going to produce a better system in the long run," said Bob Bax legislative liaison and spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health.  

The commission began its investigation four months ago after two individuals died at a state-run facility in in St. Louis.

Among the recommendations the commission suggests increasing caregivers training, adding video surveillance in certain facilities, public access to non-confidential information concerning abuse and neglect, and an increase in state funding to mental health facilities.

The department's budget for this fiscal year is $1.05 billion, but Bax said without additional funding, implementing the recommendations will be difficult. "I would say that some of these things you probably can not do without some additional resources," Bax said.

The department provides services for more than 150,000 Missourians a year including 11,0000 are mentally retarded or mentally-ill individuals living in residential, habilitation and community centers. Between 2000-2005  there was an average of 140 substantiated cases of abuse or neglected each year, Bax said.

Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, said the recommendations were positive but the mental  health department doesn't have the resources it needs. "The Mental Health Department has been cut badly in the recent past and they never recovered and there is nothing to address that in this report." 

The recommendation will now go to a governor-appointed task force.

"We forwarded the report to the governor's special task force to review and then make recommendations as part of their comprehensive review of the mental health system in Missouri," said Jessica Robinson, spokesperson for the governor. "They're actually going to take a look at that so we wouldn't have any comment on the report itself."  Robinson said the governor will rely on the task force to review and interpret the commission's recommendations and pass it along.

Baker said the recommendations are taking a circuitous route to the governor.

"Everyone knows theres been a  problem and theres been a problem for a good long time.  It could very well be that it is quite tied to the fact that there is just not enough resources in these programs," she said

One of the recommendations would require all habilitation centers to be become accredited by a national accreditation organization. However, no deadline was set. Bax estimates this will cost the department between $10,000-$25,000 per facility.

"It is not prohibitive, but the thing to also consider is to meet the standards, we may need to hire additional staff," Bax said. "So it's not a real quick process before you can become accredited. You have to pass and that may require some time for us to do some things with our facilities so they do meet the standards."

 Other commission recommendations include: