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Oregon State Hospital Superintendent Greg Roberts talked about his experience turning around mental hospitals in New Jersey on today's program. After the show I asked him what it was like to come from outside to head up Oregon's highly troubled hospital. He said he felt most people were looking for an outside perspective; that they wanted change but just didn't know how to do it. Then he added this:
Everyone is so polite here. Driving, they let you in. People smile. They don't swear as much as in New Jersey. But that's not what we need in meetings about the hospital. Some people call it passive resistance. But think it's just politeness. Don't be so polite!
Swearing is not required, but he said he has started calling on people in meetings when he senses they're quietly harboring a different take. He claims it's starting to get the kind of conversation he thinks will help the hospital. He also said a major challenge is accountability. He's found a sense of "they won't let us" among staff who would like to try new things. He's trying to change that by actively soliciting ideas.
And while we're on changing culture, what about food? Patient Miguel Garcia told me he can't find real chicken in the chicken enchiladas. And Sabbylou posted this question online:
. . .what is being done to improve the quality of the food? Are steps being taken to assess how things like dairy, sugar and gluten might affect an individual's mental and physical health? Can local farms and CSA's form partnerships with the state mental health care system, so that high quality whole foods can reach the people who need good nutrition so badly?
I got a partial answer after the show: Roberts wants to know more about the range of ethnic food offerings. And a hospital public relations person pointed me to a November 2010 Salem Statesman-Journal article about sourcing local food. You can read a summary here. Here's the part relating to the state hospital:
The Oregon State Hospital has attempted to buy more foods from local sources, said Todd Pommier, a state employee who oversees food service at the institution. Beef packed by a Eugene company and blueberries grown at a farm near Lebanon are some examples.
To control high blood pressure among its patients, the hospital has switched to a low sodium and low fat diet. This too has created an opportunity for Oregon farmers because the diet is also high in nuts, fiber and grains.
"These are great opportunities for us to source some local hazelnuts," Pommier said.