LEWISTOWN – Montana Department of Corrections Director Reginald D. Michael announced on Thursday that the 25-bed infirmary in Lewistown will close by late July 2018. The facility employs nine department security personnel, including eight correctional officers and one supervisor.
The Lewistown Infirmary opened in December 2012 in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The secure Corrections wing is part of the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center (MMHNCC) and houses up to 25 inmates with serious, long-term medical conditions.
There are currently 23 inmates in the infirmary. Of those, 13 are potentially eligible for medical parole because they have both a mental health diagnosis such as dementia and medical conditions that qualify them for placement in the DPHHS nursing home portion of the facility. These placements would be made only if approved by the Board of Pardons and Parole and DPHHS.
“Many of the inmates in the facility are elderly dementia patients who have mobility and other medical conditions,” Michael said. “Because of these health conditions, they do not pose a risk to public safety and would be better served in a nursing home environment.”
Three inmates in the infirmary will complete their sentences in the coming months and be discharged. The remaining seven inmates are not eligible for parole and will be transferred to Montana State Prison. Clinical Services Division staff at Montana State Prison are developing individualized plans to meet these offenders’ medical and mental health needs.
Assuming the Corrections wing closes on July 31, 2018, and 16 of the inmates at the facility are medically paroled or complete their sentences, Corrections expects to save $2,709,650 for the 11 months remaining in Fiscal Year 2019. This includes $2,038,923 for the contract with DPHHS and savings in pharmaceutical and outside medical costs, and $670,727 in staff reductions.
“The Department of Corrections is continuing to look at options that will allow us to live within our budget,” Michael said. “Given the cuts mandated by the last legislature, we are weighing the costs and benefits of various programs, and identifying ways to implement more cost-effective services.”
The nine Corrections employees who provided security for the infirmary will have the opportunity to transfer to similar positions with Montana State Prison, Montana Women’s Prison and the Pine Hills Correctional Facility. Corrections is working closely with the Department of Labor and Industry to provide services for the Lewistown employees who will lose their jobs.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said through the agreement, DPHHS provided certified nurse assistants (CNA) and support staff at the infirmary. These employees will remain employed at the MMHNCC to fill current open positions and address other needs on the nursing home side.
Hogan said discussions will occur in the coming months as to how the infirmary space will be used in the future. “We know there is a tremendous need in Montana for the mental health nursing care services this facility provides,” she said. “Our staff there provide excellent care, and in the coming months we will closely evaluate ways to utilize this space going forward.”