Monday, December 04, 2006
Champion committee blocked mental health legislation
Our legislators are falling all over themselves proclaiming their intent to craft bills that would prevent a recurrence of the tragedy that took place one week ago at the Anderson Guest House.
One possibility is a bill that would include the following provisions:
-The Department of Mental Health should be required to terminate contracts with private vendors having a pattern of abuse and neglect of patients.
-Private contractor employees who violate state laws and rules must be dismissed.
-Private mental health facilities and group homes must be included in the state's Family Care Safety Registry.
Certainly a bill with those provisions, and follow-up on the provisions by state inspections would have prevented Robert Dupont and his ever-changing corporations from having the responsibility for those who are least capable of taking care of themselves.
That bill would give teeth to state officials in their fight against corner-cutting, loophole-seeking businessmen trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the taxpayers.
Missouri had a chance to have such a bill. Senate Bill 986, proposed by Tim Green, D-Florissant, in the 2006 legislative session, contained those provisions. Senate records indicate the bill received its first reading Feb. 1, and after its second reading Feb. 7, it was referred to the Senate's Aging, Families, Mental and Public Health Committee, from which it never emerged.
That committee is headed by Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield. Its members include Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon.
Ms. Champion, however, did her part for the mentally ill, in SB 648, a modification of an existing bill that required fire escapes in public buildings. The bill is already in place, but Ms. Champion sponsored legislation that changed the term "lunatic asylum" in the older bill to "mental health facility."
Her bill made it through committee, was passed by the Senate and House and was signed into law by Governor Matt Blunt.