Committee tours N.D. State Hospital: Need to house and treat sex offenders, dangerous individuals continues to grow
The need to house and treat sex offenders and provide mental health and substance abuse treatments for dangerous individuals continues to grow at the North Dakota State Hospital.
The North Dakota Legislature’s Government Services Committee learned about those needs at the State Hospital Wednesday.
“With the emphasis on community care our population is much lower but have greater needs,” said Alex Schweitzer, superintendent of the State Hospital. “The growth since 1997 has been in forensic services because of the sex offender programs.”
The average population at the State Hospital in 1997 was 289 patients in the traditional care fields of mental health and substance abuse. In 2012, the daily population averaged 104 patients.
Schweitzer said the State Hospital has added two departments within its forensic unit since 1997. One department provides alcohol and drug treatment for up to 60 men and 30 women from the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.
The other provides treatment for sex offenders in a 76-bed secure unit.
The committee is tasked with gathering information on a number of state owned facilities, according to Sen. Ronald Sorvaag, R-Fargo, chairman of the committee.
“The committee is looking at all the major government facilities around North Dakota,” he said. “We want to look at all the major facilities completely as to some that are not utilized.”
The committee received information on the buildings on the State Hospital campus and the surrounding lands owned by the state.
Schweitzer said the State Hospital manages about 2,500 acres of agricultural land valued at between $4.2 million and $4.9 million. The state received about $107,000 in rent for the land this year.
Schweitzer also presented information concerning four buildings on the State Hospital campus that are vacant or only lightly utilized. There are about 10 principle buildings on the State Hospital campus as well as cottages, storage buildings and warehouses. The James River Correction Center also operates three buildings on the campus.
The largest unused State Hospital building is 16 West. Only the lower level of the four-story building is utilized for plant operations such as electricians and plumbers. The top three stories are vacant.
The Old Administration building is vacant but has been used as emergency housing during flood disasters, Schweitzer said.
“We have been approached to use the administration building as a homeless shelter,” he said. “There is a need for that in our community.”
Schweitzer said the chapel and Superintendent’s House are not used by the State Hospital but are rented to community groups for special events.
The committee also asked about the portions of the State Hospital that are utilized and the potential for future needs.
Schweitzer said combining all services into a single new facility would provide greater efficiency but the administration had not researched costs or benefits.
“This is still a preliminary meeting,” Sorvaag said. “We’ve raised questions about farmland, we’ve raised questions about the vacant buildings and utilization. We’re a long ways from making any recommendations.”
The members of the committee toured the State Hospital after the hearing. The committee continues its hearing today with a presentation and tour of the James River Correctional Center.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com