State hospital space giving way to more prison uses
Pueblo Chieftain Sunday March 15, 1998
The sign at the entrance still says "Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo," but prison inmates outnumber psychiatric patients on the hospital's state-owned campus.
And the gap is guaranteed to grow during the next decade.
Superintendent Bob Hawkins said the hospital's patient census has been drastically reduced by two factors: the state's move to outpatient managed care of psychiatric patients under 21 and older than 65, and a statewide move to treat patients in their home communities rather than in centralized locations like the state hospital and Fort Logan hospital in Denver.
Once home to about 6,000 patients committed to the hospital from around Colorado, CMHIP now cares for a maximum of 568. The average daily census is 540.
"Our largest population now is the forensics unit," Hawkins said.
In contrast, there are at least 580 adults and juveniles living on the hospital campus as wards of the Department of Corrections.
That number could grow to at least 1,500 by year's end, after an addition to the San Carlos Correctional Facility doubles its capacity to 500 and a new Youth Offender System reformatory under construction opens its doors to a projected 500 young criminals.
Long-range DOC plans also call for a men's minimum-security prison and another for aging inmates and others who need continuing medical care.
In addition, prison officials hope to move DOC headquarters from Colorado Springs to an office park for state agencies planned for vacant land north of 29th Street on hospital grounds.
If all facets of the DOC's master plan are approved and funded by the Legislature, the next decade could see 2,400 prison beds on the hospital's campus and 1,723 DOC staffers, compared to today's 285.
The state also is considering destroying many of the outdated state hospital buildings and replacing them with an addition to the administration building and general hospital.
The project may include two additional wards that would house a residential treatment center for children and a step-down program between acute care and community care for mentally ill patients.
The state hospital opened as the Colorado State Insane Asylum in 1879.
P.R. Thombs, who was the first superintendent, serving for 20 years until his resignation in 1899.
Thombs was replaced by A.P. Busey, who served through 1913, when H.A. LaMoure came on the scene as superintendent.
It was during LaMoure's tenure in 1917 that the insane asylum was renamed the Colorado State Hospital.
F.H. Zimmerman replaced LaMoure in 1928, and it would not be until his final year as superintendent, 1961, that Fort Logan Mental Health Center opened. At that time, the Colorado State Hospital had nearly 6,000 patients.
Decentralization reduced the population to its current levels. Many of the patients have been released to care by community mental health centers in the three decades since.
W.H. Bower served only two years as superintendent, 1961-1963, during the state's first push for decentralization. He was followed by C.E. Meredith, 1963-1976, Haydee Kort, 1977-1990, Harold Carmel, 1991-1995, and Bob Hawkins, 1996-present.
C L A S S A C T I O N R E P O R T E R
Tuesday, January 28, 2003, Vol. 5, No. 19
COLORADO: Court Approves Hospital Monitoring Pact in Inmate Care Suit
United States District Judge Lewis T. Babcock approved the agreement
forged by Colorado state officials and patients of the Colorado Mental
Health Institute, for the settlement of a 1999 class action, seeking to
make wide-ranging improvements in the conditions at the hospital, and
in the care and treatment of patients, the Pueblo Chieftain Online
The suit alleged that the patients were being warehoused and given
inadequate treatment. Therefore, some patients were being kept
unfairly at the hospital longer than they would have served in prison
for their crimes, their lawyers contended.
Under the agreement, two outside experts will monitor the Institute
until the agreement expires in December 31,2006. The agreement also
covers all patients who have been involuntarily committed to the state
hospital's forensic unit because they have been found innocent of
crimes due to insanity. The agreement eliminated a five-week trial,
which was due to start this month.
"The institute must be run in a way that does afford to the patients
the rights they are entitled to under the law," Judge Babcock said at
the end of a 30-hour hearing when he approved the agreement between
patients and state officials, the Pueblo Chieftain states.
Don Abram, a former Pueblo District Court judge and a retired US
District Court magistrate judge, urged Judge Babcock to approve the
agreement. Judge Babcock appointed Mr. Abram to protect the interests
of patients, the Pueblo Chieftain reports.
"I am thoroughly convinced that these (state) agencies and the
attorneys for these agencies are deeply concerned, are dedicated to
carrying out the agreement," Mr. Abram said. "I'm convinced they will
Under the agreement:
(1) the daily average census is to be limited to 278 patients;
(2) if a new forensic facility is not funded by June 30, 2005, the average daily census in the maximum-security building will be reduced to 72 patients from 80, and in the medium-security building to 80 patients from 80;
(3) an intensive community placement program is required. Fifteen patients will reside in community placement housing within a year;
(4) the governor's budget for 2003-2004 includes funding for an additional 14.6 full-time equivalent employees;
(5) beginning April 30, there will be at least 1.3 direct-care staff, not including psychiatrists, per patient. The ratio is to be 1.35 staff per patient by July 1, 2004;
(6) CMHIP will continue to recruit psychiatrists until there is a ratio of one psychiatrist for each 17.4 patients;
(7) individual psychotherapy will be increased;
(8) each patient will be provided with a plan for care and progression toward possible release.
The lawsuit may be reopened or a new one filed if patients and their attorneys believe the CMHIP does not comply with the agreement. The judge said Mr. Abram will continue to be paid by the state to protect the patients' interests for at least 18 months.