On the web.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Jessica Robinson, 573-751-0290
Gov. Blunt's Administration Moves Forward to Better Protect Vulnerable
Missourians from Abuse and Neglect
JEFFERSON CITY Two years after Gov. Matt Blunt formed a special intra-state agency task force to improve investigations of abuse, neglect and fatalities at state mental health facilities and independent living centers, the Department of Mental Health (DMH) continues to make progress and move forward with recommendations. The department recently issued its 2008 Safety Report to Gov. Blunt showing that 15 of the governors Mental Health Task Forces 25 recommendations have been implemented and the remaining items are well on their way to implementation.
"The safety of our states most vulnerable citizens cannot be compromised and the importance of the work of the task force must not be allowed to diminish with the passage of time," Gov. Blunt said. "This annual report and update by the department will help ensure continued transparency on the part of the states mental health system to its mission of serving Missourians with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance abuse needs."
Gov. Blunt formed the Mental Health Task Force in response to concerns about the care and safety of Missourians served in the departments facilities and programs. He charged the task force with ensuring that the safety of mental health consumers be the top priority of the state mental health service delivery system and asked Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to serve as chair. The task force held public hearings around the state before issuing its report and recommendations in November 2006. The groups work has led to a new level of protection and oversight in mental health services. The 2008 Safety Report is available online at http://www.dmh.mo.gov/spectopics/SafetyReport08.pdf. The first report, issued in 2007, showed 10 recommendations fully implemented. The five recommendations implemented in the past year are:
Establishing formal ties between the abuse reporting telephone hotlines of the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Department of Social Services;
Establishing a tracking system within DMH for critical data on abuse, neglect and other safety information;
Amending the background check process to determine if potential employees are subject to a pending investigation;
Allowing public access to non-confidential information in final reports of substantiated abuse and neglect investigations; and
Establishing a new agreement between DMH and Missouri Protection and Advocacy.
"As the states Senior Advocate, I am pleased to see that measures to protect Missourians from abuse and neglect are being implemented, but we must all remain committed to ensuring that additional steps are taken to further improve those protections," Lt. Gov. Kinder said. "As a state, we must do everything we can to protect seniors and those in mental health facilities from those who would seek to do them harm."
Keith Schafer, director of the Department of Mental Health, said the departments goal is to create permanent systems that prevent abuse and neglect when possible and provide for a quick and thorough response when abuse and neglect does occur. "The recommendations represent a road map to improving and ensuring the safety of persons served in state facilities and in community programs.
They provide us with more tools to prevent and respond to abuse and neglect," Director Schafer said. "We are making progress, but this work must be seen as a dynamic, never-ending process.