Staff Shortage Prompts Concerns For Patient Safety At State Mental Health Institute

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A major state mental health facility is so understaffed, it closed a highly-regarded addiction treatment program recently to shuffle nurses elsewhere in the hospital. That led to revelations that a federal agency may pull funding from the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo because its low staffing levels meant the hospital wasn't meeting patient needs. The next federal review is set to be completed by June 28.

State officials have responded quickly to address the issues raised by federal and state reviews, and to avoid losing federal funding, and they say they have met the requirements. They implemented mandatory overtime for employees at the institute, suspended vacations, began offering signing bonuses for new hires, and talked to other local hospitals about sharing nursing staff, among other things. They say a nationwide nursing shortage and the competitiveness of the local market make it difficult to fill open positions at the hospital.

Peter Roper is a reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain who broke the story about the addiction program that has been temporarily closed; he says he's been getting regular calls from current and former hospital staff concerned about conditions there. Roper spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.