After 20 years of working on the Trinity Hospital St. Joseph's campus, Ron Meier, director of Trinity's Mental Health program, is retiring. Throughout his career he has been a key influence in developing and maintaining mental health programs.
Meier began working in Minot's mental health system as a department manager of the adult and adolescent inpatient psychiatric units at UniMed, and continued to stay with the program after it was acquired by Trinity Health. He has since seen many changes in the mental health field and has worked to create new programs.
"In the early '90s, we developed a child and adolescent partial hospitalization program, and later a chemical dependency program. At that time, we also developed a crisis intervention center," Meier said.
Ron Meier, director of Trinity’s Mental Health Department, works at his desk. Meier has been at work easing the transition for the department in preparation for his retirement.
"As with all health care, there has been tremendous change. Psychiatry has developed new safer and more effective medications. With the new medications, we were able to get more people out into their communities," he added.
As more people have been moved out of inpatient hospitalization and into their communities through partial hospitalization programs or outpatient treatment programs, there has been less stigma attached to mental illness.
"There is still a stigma, but I think we've come a long way. I attribute that to keeping people in their communities and more education," Meier said.
When patients do enter inpatient care, it's usually for a short time. Meier explained that the average inpatient stay is five to seven days, where in earlier years it was measured in terms of weeks or months. He sees it as a positive change.
"In the mental health area, I don't think we need to have intense secure psychiatric units, when most therapy can be done on an outpatient basis," he said.
Meier began his career in mental health shortly after he graduated from college, spending two years working at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown in the occupational therapy department. From there, he spent 17 years at the now closed St. Ansgar Hospital in Moorhead as the director of the occupational therapy department and eventually the adult psychiatric inpatient program.
"My background is occupational therapy, and as the places that I worked changed, I took on additional responsibilities," Meier said.
At his current position, Meier works with Trinity Mental Health's program coordinators and supervisors to provide them with the resources that they need to solve problems and with information about the direction of the hospital.
"It's important to treat the people that you work with with respect and listen to their concerns. I'd say my management style is more collaborative than authoritarian. I've always thought that when I'm working with a team of four or five people together, as a group we can be smarter than I am as an individual," Meier said.
Meier has chosen his time to retire because he believes he's done most of what he is able to do.
"I've had many great opportunities in my profession to work with patients and a great number of wonderful staff in developing and maintaining programs. I've been very satisfied with my chosen profession, there has been a lot of challenges but a lot of satisfaction, too," he said.