Taking over the reins of a collapsing mental health center may not be the easiest job, but during his first month as executive director at Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center, Don Muller has responded to a number of personnel and program needs.
Example 1 - At a recent Timp Mental Health executive committee meeting, Muller introduced the center's newest staff member. Dr. Charles Kuhn, who came on board Aug. 1 as the new clinical director. He is from Georgia.Kuhn replaced Dr. Richard Spencer, a Timp employee who was suspended from his administrative position as clinical director last April. Spencer was dismissed as a merit employee and has since been working at the center under a contract (for 40 hours a week without benefits) to work in direct patient care.
Spencer and seven other administrators were suspended April 13 following allegations they mismanaged more than $3.5 million in funds at the center.
For a number of years, Spencer was the only full-time psychiatrist employed by the center.
Muller said in the near future he hopes to have four full-time psychiatrists and one part-time psychiatrist employed at the center.
"This will allow them to do a much more consistent job than has been done in the past," Muller said. "We very likely will lose Spencer, but he is committed and feels obligated to stay at the center."
Example 2 - Muller told board members he had come up with a proposal to change the name of the center if they thought it was necessary. Since problems developed at the facility, he said, "There has been a general feeling that we should take some steps to change the name."
Utah County Commissioner Malcolm Beck said, "If we change the name it just looks like we are trying to cover up something. I just think we are trying to do something we don't need to."
The executive committee recommended the name change be brought before the authority board in its next quarterly meeting.
Example 3 - Timp Mental Health Inpatient services will open its doors at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center Sept. 15, Muller told the committee.
Staff recruitment for that facility has already begun. Muller said a number of Timp employees from the present inpatient facility have already applied, and those who qualify for the jobs will go through orientation and interviews in the next few weeks.
"We will not hire anyone from outside to fill these positions" if a Timp employee is qualified, he said. "They are bringing with them experience. Many patients that come in will be acquainted with them."
Employees at the present inpatient unit located next to the Utah County Jail held a public meeting last month saying that they feared for their jobs and felt slighted by the administrative decision to close their unit and move inpatient services to the medical center.
Example 4 - The Carousel home in Clearfield, a youth detention home run by Timp Mental Health for the Department of Corrections, will close Sept. 1, and the five youth will be transferred to the Provo facility.
Example 5 - A member of the Timp Mental Health Citizens Advisory Council was present at the executive committee meeting Thursday. The advisory council has been organized for a number of years but has not played an active role.
Kerstin Sorensen, chairwoman of the advisory council, said, "We don't have enough data to prevent what happened before, but we could have listened closer to mumblings. How much authority do you want to give us, and how much do we accept?"
Sorensen said she sees the advisory council as a link between the community, patients and director and not as a watchdog group.
The advisory council is made up of volunteers from throughout Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties.
Muller said everything "is really going surprisingly well," but the Timp Mental Health administration still has a long fight ahead to restore employee morale.
"They just generally feel like they got shafted," he said. "Past management put them out on a limb and that was cut off."