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Public To Private: At Least Roob's Got The Talking Points Down Pat

Fssa Lesley Stedman Weidenbener brings us an update on the Family and Social Services Administration's slow- to no-moving plans to privatize the state mental hospital in Madison:

"More than two years after Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration announced plans to turn over the state's mental health hospitals to private, nonprofit management, there's been virtually no progress on that idea at the center in Madison.

"But state officials say they haven't abandoned the plan. In fact, Family and Social Services Secretary Mitch Roob said last week that problems uncovered by a recent federal audit at the Logansport State Hospital in Cass County bolster his claim that the change is necessary.

"'We need to figure out a way to deliver a higher level of care than we're currently providing so we increase the speed at which we move people out of hospitals and into the community where applicable,"'Roob said.

"Not everyone thinks that requires turning the hospitals over to private operators.

"Madison Mayor Al Huntington said Friday he thought the state's plan for the 150-bed local hospital -- which serves people with serious mental illnesses and developmental disabilities -- was dead and hopes it remains so. Madison State Hospital employs 400 people and has an operating budget of about $30 million annually.

"'We have a great group of employees here and they give excellent care to the clients there,' Huntington said. 'I just don't see any advantage at all to this facility to put it out for operation by a private group. I hope that it (private operation) stays on the back burner and doesn't resurface.'

"Roob said a change in ownership at the Madison facility is 'not going to happen tomorrow, not going to happen this year.' But he said the agency has no choice -- particularly in light of the Logansport audit -- but to look for ways to modernize the hospitals' operations.

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted the audit at Logansport and presented the findings recently to the state, said Marcus Barlow, spokesman for Roob's agency.

"The state did not release a copy of the report publicly, and federal officials did not return calls about it."

Uh, don't they kind of have to make that sort of thing public?


Apparently running Logansport hospital the Mitch Roob way these past three years has resulted in some pretty nasty living conditions for the patients. Now, Mitch gets to use this report as justification to privatize? Huh? First and foremost he should be held accountable for what is happening inside his facilities.

Actually.....I think the care at Logansport has been bad for quite awhile. I can remember hearing problems about it when Kernan was Gov as well.

The administration often sets up public agencies to fail so that they can use these failures to justify privitization. Many think that the No Child Left Behind law was written so that public schools would fail thereby paving the way for private vouchers. NCLB relies solely on test scores and requires schools to include special ed and ESL students' scores into the mix, requiring a school to constantly improve each year. Once a school fails to meet the benchmarks, parents can request to send their children to another school with the failing school paying the way. Even schools with good test scores have a hard time continually improving and will look like a "failure" under the NCLB. Perhaps Roob took a page out of Dubya's playbook for Logansport Hospital...let conditions deteriorate so that the public will support the idea of privitization.

As a former patient I can tell you that conditions have been bad since before this administration and not just at this facility. It seems to me Fort Wayne Center for the Developmentally Disabled is the best example.

The problem if there is actually one is not with the employees who are for the most part incredibly caring, hard working, and compassionate while being poorly paid and demoralized by the inconsistent and heavy handed management that flows from Roob on down. Private operators can't possibly pay people any less unless you want a revolving door work force of poorly paid, untrained workers like most of the state's group home have as the state has pushed people out into the community without the resources to survive. A large number of former patients who were "ready to live in the community" that have been killed or died as a result of the neglect the system shows toward them or outright died as a result of the poorly trained staff who are supposed to assist them. Last year, a middle aged man who had been released into the community from Muscatauck State Developmental Center and who was only supposed to eat pureed foods choked to death when a group home staff member took him to eat at McDonalds. How about the superintendent of Madison State Hospital (the state's highest paid non-university employee) who recently spent a $100,000 renovating a residence on grounds for herself and her girlfriend to live in while limited the clients to a single pat of butter with their meals to cut costs. There is certainly something out of whack in the system but it begins at the top and won't be resolved through privatization.

What it needs is someone who understands these issues as a human being at the top both at the facility level and in Indianapolis and not a bean counter who considers these incredibly vulnerable individuals as widgets. I am also hard pressed to believe that the actual cost of operating Madison State Hospital comes anywhere close to $30 million -- there is some seriously distorted government accounting going on to bolster a case for privatization. They might be using the same accounting professionals that justified privatization of the Toll Road.

Great post "Y Waste Our Money"! You have condensed the whole purpose of privatization down to a few powerful paragraphs...These people are human beings, not a figure on the bottom line.

We need a Bastille Day for the bean counters...

As a state employee at Logansport State Hospital I find Sec. Robb's remarks disingenuous. The employees at this facility care for our patients, and to suggest other wise is flatly wrong. The quality of care was not in question. What was high lighted to the direct care staff by our superintendent and medical director was the need for more staff, more active programing and continuity of care. These issues will not be solved by privatization, localization or any other quick fix solution this administration is famous for. I find it insulting that the bottom line is more important then our fellow Hoosiers that fall on hard times or have a treatable affliction this administration would rather hand over to a private entity instead of showing true leadership and come up with real attainable solutions to better the lives of our fellow Hoosiers. Staff have for years been asked to do more with less, work more overtime and give up anything that remotely looks like a normal life. Don't get me wrong we take our duties to our fellow Hoosiers very seriously. I for one find my job very rewarding to know that every day I have an impact on another persons life and I hope it is in the positive. The bottom line Hoosiers should take care of Hoosiers not a private for profit.

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