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N.D. State Hospital seeks proposals for treating youth

The North Dakota State Hospital is seeking proposals to contract the treatment of troubled adolescents to a private inpatient facility, according to the report of Alex Schweitzer, superintendent of the hospital, to the Governing Board Monday.

"We look to outsource the child and adolescent services to the private sector," he said. "This move increases our capacity of adults by 18 beds."

Schweitzer said the Child and Adolescent Unit has a capacity of eight youth and an average population of five or six.

"These are very difficult high-end kids who have had issues in other care settings," Schweitzer said. "But private facilities have shown an interest in the contract."

The proposals are being solicited this summer and if arrangements can be made the change will come in the fall. All State Hospital personnel assigned to the Child and Adolescent Unit will be reassigned to other departments within the hospital.

Also affected by the move are the teachers at the Child and Adolescent Services School at the State Hospital. Schweitzer said the six staff at the school are employed by Jamestown Public Schools. The hospital does not reimburse the school for the teaching staff and the teachers are already under contract for the 2010 to 2011 school year.

"If it comes to pass we have some contingency plans," said Bob Toso, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools. "JPS is just the fiscal agent that handles the money for the CASS. All the money comes from the state and the home school districts where the kids in the program come from. This isn't a cost to the taxpayers of Jamestown."

Toso said the CASS fund has enough money to meet salary obligations for a year if the school is closed.

"These are highly trained professionals," he said. "They could work into the adult education programs at the State Hospital during that final year they are under contract if the Child and Adolescent Unit ceases to function."

Schweitzer also reported that an inspection by the Joint Commission in May had found only minor issues that had been corrected.

"We're pretty much in compliance," he said. "A few deficiencies were noted and they are being corrected. Two of the deficiencies concern Medicare compliance and they have been corrected and will be reviewed within 60 days."

Schweitzer said one issue involved the number of times environmental testing had been performed in the hospital. These tests confirm the operations of heating, cooling and other environmental systems.

The other issue involved protocols for determining and documenting medications given by a dentist who works as a subcontractor to the hospital.

Ken Schultz, chief financial officer for the hospital, noted it was too early to make any budget projections for the upcoming Legislature.

Schweitzer said the top priority for the capital improvements budget request would be an "above-ground tunnel" connecting the State Hospital Chapel to the treatment areas. The chapel was connected by underground tunnels to the treatment areas previously. Some of those tunnels were closed as a security precaution when the James River Correctional Center opened.

The new tunnel would be an enclosed hallway between the administration building and the chapel and allow secure movement of patients from the treatment areas to the chapel in all weather.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at