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Could BHU at CCMH become a Regional Health Center?

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

In an effort this morning to persuade the Cass County Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees to hold on to the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), a suggestion was made by CADCO spokesman Hal Gronewold, to have the hospital apply to the Department of Human Services, to become one of a handful of regional mental health centers in the State. Gronewold said Atlantic has a lot to offer, as far as infrastructure, local and in-patient/outpatient services. By applying to the DHS, he says it’s possible the center could be located in Atlantic. Dr. John Bigelow, with the Southwest Iowa Mental Health System, clarified, by saying any regional center would primarily be for outpatient services, which is different than what the BHU currently offers. 

The new way of delivering mental health and disability services across Iowa has been studied for months, and the five-year plan will come before the legislature for review in the upcoming session. It calls for spending 47-million dollars for a complete system redesign. The idea is to move from separate systems in each of Iowa’s 99 counties to a regional system. Rik Shannon, with the Iowa Development Disabilities Council, says the idea has some people with disabilities concerned about convenience, in terms of accessing the services they need.  He says “Without having a clear idea what that regional system may look like, many people with disabilities worry about losing, for instance, the local points of access that currently exist.”

Supporters of a regional system say it would be more efficient in delivering services and more cost-effective. And Shannon points out that now, not all types of services are available in each county. He says “If we have crisis intervention services that are currently unavailable in a lot of areas of the state, then if we can get that early intervention to people, we could avoid more costly interventions that might occur later.

Under the current county system, he adds, there is a wide variance in quality and availability of services, because funding comes from local property taxes. If a redesigned system is passed by the Legislature, it would take about five years to put into place.

(Shannon’s comments are courtesy the Iowa News Service)

Bluff’s Social Worker’s license suspended

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Board of Social Work has suspended the license of a Council Bluffs social worker. The Board suspended the license of Joseph B. Kenney, until he provides documentation of his completion of 15 hours of continuing education. In addition, Kenney was ordered to pay a $500 civil penalty and complete an additional three-hour ethics course. The civil penalty was assessed for Kenney’s failure to complete required continuing education or provide documentation of completion, and for his false representation on his license renewal application that he had completed. 

The IBSW says if the conditions listed by the board to reinstate Kenney’s license are not met by Dec. 31st, 2012, his license will be revoked.

8AM Newscast 12-14-2011

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Jim Field

Play

Behavioral Health Unit at CCMH to remain open, but will be downsized

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 11:30-a.m. w/additional details and comments)

The Cass County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees voted this (Wednesday) morning, to proceed with construction documents and bid letting to remodel the current Special Care Unit (SCU) to house a four-bed inpatient Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).  If the bids are within budget projections, remodeling would begin in late 2012 after the Special Care Unit relocates to the new hospital addition scheduled to open in August 2012.  The current BHU is located in an older part of the hospital scheduled for demolition during the final stage of the current construction and remodeling project. The motion to keep the facility open came from Board member John Molgaard, and was seconded by Leann Pellett.  He said he wanted to have a contract with the architects for the ICU to provide documents and bid letting to accommodate the BHU. The final drawings and bidding documents will have to be ready three-weeks prior to the bid-letting, on April 12th. The cost for the engineering changes and documents would not exceed $24,000. 

According to CCMH, the hospital’s Trustees have been examining the financial feasibility of maintaining an inpatient BHU, due to the poor reimbursement and consistent losses incurred for the service.  Losses include actual shortages in payment due to contractual adjustments with private insurances, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement below cost since BHU is not considered a core service for a Critical Access Hospital.  The cost of the remodeling the SCU will likely run about $300,000, the funds for which are available according to Molgaard.  He says there are always funds for expansion, that will not require additional taxes or monies from the public. 

If the costs of remodeling exceed that estimate however, plans for the BHU would have to be re-evaluated. The Cass County Board of Supervisors were on-hand for this morning’s meeting. After the Trustee’s decision was made, Supervisors Chair Duane McFadden said he was pleased the BHU is still alive, for now.  He says at least now it’ll have some direct costs associated with the plan, and the Board will remain steadfast in its support of keeping the BHU open. Prior to discussion and a vote on the matter, Hal Gronewold, spoke on behalf of the Cass Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO). Gronewold said if the facility were to close, many jobs would be lost. If it were to remain open, the hospital could become a regional leader in Mental Health Care, since many other, similar facilities have closed or are planning to close. 

CCMH says with an average census of 3.5 patients per day, the propose four-bed unit is expected to meet most, if not all, of the inpatient needs.  By decreasing the size and overhead of the BHU, officials say the total effect on the CCMH bottom line is expected to be approximately $250,000 in losses per year.  CCMH Trustees President Steve Sisler said in a Press Release that “It is always difficult to balance our desire to provide a broad spectrum of healthcare for the people of southwest Iowa with the ever challenging financial realities we face.” He said “While we never like to plan for a loss, the board feels this is an important service for our community, and is willing to try to make it work on this smaller scale.”

7AM Newscast 12-14-2011

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Ric Hanson

Play

Santorum to visit Atlantic, Sunday, Dec. 18th

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, from Pennsylvannia, will be in Atlantic Sunday evening (Dec. 18th),  on a campaign stop. Santorum will hold a “Cup of Coffee and Questions and Answers” session with area residents at the Farmer’s Kitchen Restaurant (319 Walnut Street), from 5:30- to 6:30-p.m.  Light refreshments will be served. The event is free, and open to the public.

Santorum is making the stop in Atlantic as part of his tour across the State this month. For more information on the Santorum and his position on the issues, visit www.ricksantorum.com.

Council Bluffs man arrested in Red Oak on drug-related charge

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Police in Red Oak report one person was arrested Tuesday on a drug-related charge. 21-year old Mykal Jesi Keith, of Council Bluffs, was taken into custody in the 1100 block of East Coolbaugh Street, on a Simple Misdemeanor charge of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Keith was cited for the offense and released on $300 bond.

Homeland Security Representative to provide risk assessment for Atlantic Schools

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic School District Superintendent Mike Amstein said Tuesday, Atlantic Police Chief Steve Green has arranged for an official with the U-S Department of Homeland Security to tour the district’s schools and conduct a risk assessment for the various buildings. He says they are fortunate to have the representative come to the district, as it will give school officials a better idea of what’s working and what needs to be improved, with regard to security. The official will tour the district’s main buildings, along with those that are off-campus, like the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), and Atlantic Head Start. It’s not clear when the assessments will take place.

On the same topic of security, the Atlantic School Board Tuesday, approved the first reading of a policy pertaining to the use of video cameras on school premises. Amstein said the idea for the policy came about after he spoke with the Board’s attorney, and based upon an article he read in a recent School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) newsletter. The school board currently has in-place a policy for video-taping on board the district’s buses, but there was no policy in-place for video surveillance in the schools, even though the cameras have been in use for some time.

Amstein says the article provided some specific guidelines the district can use when it comes to the handling of video evidence if an incident occurs in one of the school buildings or on school property.
He provided an example of how effective video surveillance can be to a district legally, by referring to an “incident” earlier this year, between a student and a faculty member. A surveillance camera caught the incident and recorded it. The video was requested by the police department as evidence in the case.

Atlantic School Board faces tough budget decisions

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic School District’s Board of Education will have some tough decisions to make early next year when it comes to the 2012-2013 budget. Superintendent Mike Amstein said during Tuesday night’s Board meeting, the two-percent allowable growth tentatively approved by the Iowa Legislature may be eaten up by cuts in Federal Funding. A two-percent allowable growth for the Atlantic District amounts to about $140,000. But because the Congressional Super Committee failed to do its work at the federal level, the district could stand to lose up to $120,000 in funding due to automatic spending cuts. Some of the cuts he says, will affect Special Education, and Title Program, which is essentially a literacy program for at-risk children, such as free-and reduced lunch.

He says they could be looking at an 8-percent cut in entitlement programs, based on funding. Title One would lose about $20,000 in federal funding. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – IDEA – Part B, would stand to lose $6,000, and, Special Education funding would lose about $95,000, for a total of about $121,000. In addition to the federal cuts, Amstein says there will be an increase in the cost of IPERS of .07-percent, which will become effective July 1st, 2012, and an increase in the amount the district pays for insurance, but how much that will be isn’t yet known.

Amstein says when the Board takes a look at their upcoming budget, they need to look at ways to watch their spending. The good news he says, is that the District has done some things this year to try and recover funds they have missed out on in previous years, which will help to buffer the costs. The Iowa Legislature may also end up passing additional funding for schools, but it’s too early to know for sure. Amstein says also, talks are progressing with the teacher’s association for a reasonable salary and benefits settlement.

He says the district is still in pretty good shape, but the Board needs to give some direction on what areas of the budget they want to protect, and areas where they can save, by the time their January meeting rolls around. He says they should also have a better idea of what the teacher’s union proposal will look like at that time.

Iowa post office closures delayed after Gov. Branstad calls for moratorium

News

December 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(DES MOINES)- Gov. Branstad today (Tuesday) released a statement praising the United States Postal Service for heeding his advice and delaying the closure of Iowa post offices. “I am pleased to learn that the United States Postal Service has reconsidered their consolidation and closures of Iowa post offices,” said Branstad. “I would like to thank Postmaster General Donahoe for his attention and thought. I look forward to continuing our discussion and coming up with a solution that will reduce the Postal Service’s costs while continuing to serve Iowans.”

Gov. Branstad had been an early opponent to the post office closures because they were disproportionate and put too much of the burden on rural Iowans. In September, Gov. Branstad co-authored a letter with Lohrville Mayor Donny Hobbs and a letter with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn calling for the Postal Services’ reconsideration. Branstad continued, “This is about the economic vitality of rural Iowa, and I am glad the United States Postal Service has moved forward with this decision.”

The Postal Service announced that the closures and consolidations would be delayed until May 15, 2012. Under the Postal Service’s previous plan, Iowa would have seen 17.9 percent of the state’s post offices closed, compared to 11 percent nationally.