Mullenax named admin of State Hospital

Recently-appointed Wyoming State Hospital Superintendent Paul Mullenax speaks during a tour of the new facility at the hospital last winter as Herald reporter Kayne Pyatt takes notes. Mullenax has worked at the State Hospital in Evanston for 26 years and was appointed last month, after Bill Rien retired. (HERALD FILE PHOTO/Mark Tesoro)

EVANSTON — Following the retirement of Bill Rien, the Wyoming Department of Health has promoted longtime business manager and interim superintendent Paul Mullenax to the head administrative position at the Wyoming State Hospital. The “interim” tag on Mullenax’s job title has been dropped as of late November.

In his 26 years with the WSH, Mullenax has had several supervisory positions. In 1994, he started his career with the hospital as an accounts supervisor and, for a brief time, he served as the accounts manager. In 1996, Mullenax was promoted to business manager and remained in that position until the current transition to superintendent.

“I am excited about the future potential of the hospital to continue to be the acute care short-term psychiatric facility for the state,” Mullenax told the Herald. “I am very excited about the new facility and the excellent staff we have now and that is why I applied for the position.”

Mullenax is originally from Pocatello, Idaho, and graduated from Idaho State University in 1988.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and, in 1990, earned a second in health care administration. From 1990 until 1994, he worked in acute care at Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City, before taking a job at the Wyoming State Hospital.

Paul’s wife, Donna Mullenax, worked at the WSH for 20 years and retired in 2016 as the director of nursing before moving to Utah to be near the couple’s four children and grandchildren. The couple maintains residences both in Utah and in Evanston.

As of the first of December, Mullenax said all of the patients are now residing in the new facility.  He said the patients have had very positive responses to having single bedrooms and other new areas at the facility. There is a maximum of eight patients per wing in the new facility, which Mullenax said will help to curb any negative incidents. Also, the safety officers and direct care staff are all in the same building with the patients now, so they can quickly respond when needed.

“The responses from patients from Johnson Hall, the forensics unit, have been especially positive,” Mullenax said. “The old facility was designed more like a jail, and now they have single bedrooms and it is more like a dormitory. Patients have a lot more privacy. When we moved forensics into the new facility, it was the first time in 100 years that all of the patients have been under one roof.”

What was once the new facility, located on the south end of the recently-completed project, is currently being remodeled to house the administration, the kitchen, lab, pharmacy and staff development area. The projected completion date for moving into that area is August or September of 2021.

“I am looking forward to being in the same building, as I feel so removed now from what is taking place on a daily basis,” Mullenax said. “I plan to continue the employee executive committees that the former superintendent set up. We had to cancel those due to COVID, but I will reinstate them once the virus is contained. We have done a good job of controlling the virus here at the hospital and in the last two weeks have had no more positive cases. We test patients and staff weekly. We feel extremely lucky and fortunate that we have avoided any serious issues and we are back to admitting new patients.”

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