Strategic Behavioral Health, which is building a psychiatric hospital in Middleton, faces serious regulatory problems in Nevada and Colorado, following significant violations in other states reported by the Wisconsin State Journal last year.
State and federal officials have cut off payments and admissions at the company’s psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, and have moved to stop payments and revoke the license of a facility near Fort Collins, Colorado, according to documents obtained by the State Journal and media reports.
The moves follow “immediate jeopardy” violations — the most serious kind given — at 202-bed Montevista Hospital in Las Vegas and 92-bed Clear View Behavioral Health in Johnstown, Colorado.
At Montevista, patients hid medications and gave them to other patients, according to a federal inspection report in June. Patients also set off sprinklers, resulting in patients escaping from the facility, including one who didn’t return.
Clear View failed to maintain a sanitary environment in patient care areas and the kitchen, didn’t properly investigate patient falls and suicide attempts, and may have contributed to a patient’s death, according to a state of Colorado report in June.
The facility also may have contributed to other patient deaths, officials told a Denver TV station.
Strategic Behavioral Health, a for-profit company in Memphis, Tennessee, has a “demonstrably poor record,” said Chuck Callendar, business director for Connections Counseling, a mental health services provider in Madison that is also for-profit but has a nonprofit arm.
“There is a need in this town that (Strategic Behavioral Health) is trying to address, but they are doing it for a reason, which appears to be strictly profit,” Callendar said.
Anna Moffit, executive director of the Dane County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said, “There is a need within the community for more psychiatric beds, but we also expect that any facility that is going to be built here will respect all the laws and regulations.”
Moffit said NAMI is hopeful the company “has learned lessons from the mistakes made in other facilities and is really going to be able to make sure the new Middleton facility is well-staffed and well-prepared to provide the best care possible.”
Strategic Behavioral Health leaders didn’t respond to multiple messages seeking comment. As of February, the company had 10 psychiatric hospitals in six states, including one in Green Bay, and was building two others in two additional states.
Construction of 72-bed Miramont Behavioral Health, on Deming Way in Middleton, was initially scheduled to be done by the end of this year. In February, Mike Garone, the company’s vice president of development, told the State Journal the facility was expected to open in summer 2020. The hospital is estimated to cost $17 million to $20 million.
In Iowa, Strategic Behavioral Health has requested and received two extensions from the state on its construction timeline for a facility in Bettendorf, now expected to open in February, according to the Quad City Times.
Middleton approved project
In April 2018, the State Journal reported on nine immediate jeopardy citations and other serious actions taken since 2014 against four of the company’s psychiatric hospitals in North Carolina, Texas and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The newspaper also reported that Willow Creek Behavioral Health, which opened in Green Bay in January 2017, received lower-level citations in December 2017. The citations involved failing to do full background checks on employees and not properly caring for a patient with an open wound and three patients at risk for falls, including one who fell.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said last week that Willow Creek has had no additional citations.
In May 2018, the Middleton City Council approved the Miramont project, including $1.2 million in tax incremental financing, near two day care centers and two sports complexes.
“It’s overall good for the county, for the area,” Middleton Mayor Gurdip Brar said at the time. “But I’m still a bit anxious about its location. We’re going to have to make sure it’s as safe as any facility can be.”
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Miramont will add to the 90 or so inpatient psychiatric beds in Dane County, mostly located within general hospitals. It could prevent people experiencing mental health crises from going to jail and reduce the need for law enforcement to take some patients to Winnebago Mental Health Center in Oshkosh, mental health advocates, county officials and police have said.
“They’re really willing to meet the needs of the community,” Lynn Green, then the county’s Human Services director, told the State Journal last year.
Green has since retired. Todd Campbell, the county’s adult community services administrator, said last week that the county would not comment on Strategic Behavioral Health’s recent regulatory problems.
Meanwhile, a $140,000 county-funded study of mental health services in the area, conducted by Public Consulting Group, is expected to be done by next month, Campbell said.
Payments, admissions cut off
At Montevista in Las Vegas, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a July 30 letter it was terminating its agreement with the hospital as of Aug. 14, a rare move that cuts off important Medicare or Medicaid payments.
Problems found in a June inspection “substantially limit the hospital’s capacity to render adequate care or adversely affect patient health and safety,” CMS said in the letter.
On July 25, Nevada imposed a ban on new admissions, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“While this is a challenging time for our hospital, we look forward to continuing to provide outstanding service to our community,” Montevista said in a statement, the Las Vegas newspaper said.
At Clear View in Colorado, CMS said in a July 11 letter that it intends to terminate its agreement with the hospital on Oct. 9 if improvements aren’t made.
On June 24, Colorado moved to revoke the hospital’s license, saying in a report that the facility administrators “are not fit to provide psychiatric hospital services.”
In a July 24 response, the company denied the state’s allegations. The company said its hospital has “a highly-trained medical and professional staff that is committed to helping individuals who are experiencing mental and behavioral health problems.”