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State hospital gets new leadership following repeated patient safety problems

The Montana State Hospital’s top administrator is out. The change comes after federal officials pulled funding at the Warm Springs facility due to patient safety issues.

The Montana State Hospital’s top administrator Kyle Fouts will no longer oversee operations starting May 9. Fouts is moving to the Boulder-based Intensive Behavior Center, a state-run 12-bed facility for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy is the head of the state’s federally-designated patient advocacy group Disability Rights Montana. She says the move is a step in the right direction and that she saw improvement in staff morale during her latest visit.

“I think they’re beginning to feel listened to and cared about,” she says.

Hospital staff have told lawmakers during legislative hearings that Fouts and other administrators’ abrasive management style led to excessive staff turnover. A March letter from staff unions also called for Fouts to be removed.

State health officials say chronic staffing shortages have led to several patient safety issues cited by federal inspectors. The federal government recently announced it would no longer fund care at the state hospital because of those problems.

The Montana State Health Department says Carter Anderson will step in as the state hospital’s interim administrator. Health Department Spokesperson Jon Ebelt says Amderson has over 20 years of management experience, including at residential psychiatric facilities.

Ebelt also announced that global private consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal Public Sector Services will begin overseeing all seven of the state health department’s medical facilities, including the state hospital.

Franks-Ongoy says Disability Rights Montana staff have met with the Alvarez and Marsal team and are encouraged by the firm’s experience. She says Disability Rights will continue monitoring efforts to improve care at the state hospital closely, including a separate Montana-based firm’s efforts to resolve patient safety issues at the state hospital.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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