MARCH 18, 2010

$650,000 budget drop for State Hospital North

   Funding for Idaho’s State Hospital North, in Orofino, has been cut by $650,000. The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) has had to reduce the budget for this 55-bed psychiatric facility by 9.3 percent.

    State funding for this institution has been reduced by almost 22 percent in the past two years. The hospital cares for people, placed by the courts, who are considered to be a possible danger to themselves or others. The average stay at the facility is approximately 40 days.

   Health and Welfare spokesman, Tom Shanahan, said “We’re not trying to discharge people before they’re ready, but once they are ready, we want to have some place in the community where they can get the support they need.”  If potential patients are placed on a waiting list and unable to enter the hospital, they must be placed in private facilities, and the costs may be much greater. “People on the waiting list have been committed to state custody,” said Shanahan.  “There’s a real emphasis on not having them wait,” he said. A community based support effort has been made to enable patients to transition back into society from the hospital.

   Shanahan said that to save money, one lab has been closed, one employee has been laid off, and they have been outsourcing lab tests to save $80,000 a year. Another $100,000 has been saved by using less expensive drugs whenever possible. By minimizing the need for outside services, Shanahan is optimistic that a new psychiatric physician, to begin work in June, will help improve patient care and reduce costs.