BOISE, Idaho -- State Hospital North in Orofino has seen a 50 percent increase in admissions in the past five years, yet its state funding has dropped 11 percent.
During that same period, State Hospital South in Blackfoot saw a 90 percent increase in admissions and 22 percent decrease in funding.
Division of Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds -- a Lewis-Clark State College graduate -- said the increased admissions is partly a reflection of greater demand for mental health services.
However, it's also a result of improved cooperation with community support groups, he said. Rather than keep patients for extended stays as was done in the past, the hospitals try to stabilize them and then hand them off to local support groups, freeing up beds for people who are experiencing more serious episodes.
"Our state hospitals are caring for the most mentally ill individuals in the state," Edmunds said in a meeting with the joint budget committee Wednesday. "That's where they end up. We try to help them recover and put them on a path where they can go back into the community and be successful."
The average length of stay for patients at State Hospital North has dropped from almost 60 days in 2009 to 35 days this fiscal year. State Hospital South has seen a similar trend.
"We've had to adjust," he said. "We're dealing with a more chronic population, and we're dealing with a lot more of them."
At State Hospital South, that's having a negative effect on patient and staff safety. Edmunds asked for $544,000 to restore 10 of the 37 staff positions that have been lost since 2009.
"Staffing is really at a critical, high-risk level," he said. "We're seeing increased risk to patients and to staff. We've seen an increase in the number of assaults on our staff, and in the use of patient restraints and seclusions."
The governor is recommending the funding request be approved.
Edmunds didn't ask for more money for State Hospital North; the governor is recommending a $7.3 million budget for the 60-bed facility in fiscal 2013, up from $7.18 million this fiscal year.
Spence may be contacted at bspencelmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.
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