Mental health center, and most employees, will move to MU Health Care

Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Employees of Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center were told Wednesday they would be first in line for jobs under a recruitment plan outlined by MU Health Care should it take over operation of the center.

Top officials from MU Health Care spoke to about 70 mental health center employees for almost two hours to explain the process of reapplying for jobs in the event control shifts from the state to the MU hospital system.

“They have the first chance to apply and first chance to be hired,” said Sue Kopfle, MU Health Care chief human resources officer.

MU Health Care and the Missouri Department of Mental Health are continuing to negotiate the future control of the center. A decision would need the approval of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Kopfle said MU Health Care officials are looking at the possibility of retaining a “substantial majority” of employees from the mental health center.

“It looks like we need the vast majority,” she said.

The reapplication process would include formal interviews, and Kopfle said the mental health center employees would have assistance to prepare for the interviews. Available positions would be posted exclusively at the center, she said.

Kopfle did say positions or job descriptions under MU Health Care could change, but employees from the center would be considered for those situations as well. They could also apply for other positions within MU Health Care.

Employees had many questions for MU Health Care officials Wednesday and indicated they are still waiting for the situation to become less uncertain.

Emma Gaona, who has worked at the center for 20 years, said she is waiting for more clarity about her future at a place she cares deeply about.

"I pretty much grew up here," she said.

During the presentation, it was hinted that MU Health Care will begin to operate the mental health facility starting July 1.


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