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NDSH budget request to increase

The North Dakota State Hospital budget that heads to the Legislature this session increases spending by about $3 million with the largest increases in the departments dedicated to the traditional mental health services the facility provides, according to Alex Schweitzer, superintendent of the hospital.

The proposal includes adding one new staff member to accommodate a telepharmacy program to serve the eight human service centers around the state. It is designed to provide assistance to the nurses and other pro-viders at the human services centers when prescribing medicine.

The budget maintains the hospital's capacity of 132 beds in its traditional services area. While the number of beds remains at 132 the hospital will maintain staff levels to handle a consistent 85 percent occupancy.

"That's consistent to where our occupancy has been the last year," Schweitzer said.

The budget reduces the number of beds available for the sex offenders program to 76 beds from 85.

"I used to be asked if we would ever have any discharges from that program," Schweitzer said. "Now I know we can."

The program has discharged 12 individuals with 10 of the people not causing problems after discharge, he said. The first discharges occurred during summer 2009.

The secure services division that houses the sex offenders has a proposed 2011-2013 budget of $11.3 million. This is an increase of about $500,000 with $554,000 in increases for salaries based on Gov. Jack Dalrymple's 3 percent per year budget plan.

The secure services division is funded by the North Dakota general fund and employs the equivalent of 86 full-time employees.

The budget request for the traditional services portion of the State Hospital is set to climb to $62.2 million for the 2011 to 2013 biennium, up from the $60 million approved by the North Dakota Legislature for the 2009-2010 budget.

"About $42 million comes from the general fund with $2.6 million from the federal government and $17.5 million from insurance companies," Schweitzer said. "The increase in the request from the general fund is less than $2 million."

Other budget items include a $1.8 million request for continued upgrades to the electrical systems at the State Hospital required to stay accredited and salary increases of $2.6 million.

The salary increases are also based on the governor's 3 percent per year recommendation. The State Hospital employs the equivalent of 381.5 full-time positions.

"We need to stay accredited to maintain our funding," Schweitzer said. "And we need to protect the assets of the state of North Dakota."

The State Hospital budget proposal is part of the North Dakota Human Services Department budget and will be reviewed and debated by the Legislature during the upcoming session.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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