Category Archives: Mental.Health

AFSCME President, Over 20 Lawmakers Begin State Supreme Court Case Against Branstad

Source: Ben Oldach, WHOtv, September 14, 2016

A State Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday could impact which state-funded programs get funded at budget time. The case pits AFSCME President Danny Homan and over 20 lawmakers against Governor Branstad. It comes from a veto issued by Gov. Branstad last July which effectively shut down two state-run mental hospitals. The heart of the prosecution’s argument came from a statute in Iowa’s code identifying four mental health hospitals; one in Mount Pleasant, Independence, Clarinda and Cherokee. …

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High court asked to overturn Branstad’s closures of mental health institutes
Source: William Petroski, Des Moines Register, September 14, 2016

The Iowa Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to decide if Gov. Terry Branstad violated state law last year by using his line-item veto authority to close two state mental health institutes. … The dispute dates to July 2015, when the Republican governor vetoed a bipartisan compromise plan that would have reversed his closure of the mental institution at Mount Pleasant and would have temporarily kept open a similar facility at Clarinda. Twenty-five state legislators and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued Branstad. They contended his veto of more than $6 million in spending broke a law requiring the state to operate four mental hospitals, including the two that he closed. They have asked the high court to overturn a Polk County District Court ruling last November by Polk County District Judge Douglas Staskal, who sided with Branstad. The Supreme Court did not issue a ruling Wednesday and the justices didn’t say when the case will be decided.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over closing of Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda MHI’s
Source: Pat Curtis, Radio Iowa, November 4, 2015

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Governor Terry Branstad by the state’s largest public employees union and 20 legislative Democrats. The lawsuit was filed after Branstad vetoed funding approved by the legislature that would have kept two of the state’s Mental Health Institutes open. … Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, said the action the governor took to close the two MHIs was illegal. But, a Polk County judge has ruled Branstad had the authority to veto financial support for such facilities and backed a request by state attorneys to throw out the lawsuit. The attorney representing AFSCME and the lawmakers plans to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Branstad’s mental-hospital closures debated in court
Source: Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register, October 8, 2015

Lawyers for Gov. Terry Branstad and his critics argued in court Thursday over whether he broke the law by using his line item veto authority to effectively shutter two state mental hospitals. … Branstad’s lawyers earlier asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the legislators and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lacked grounds to sue. The judge disagreed, ruling last month that the lawsuit could proceed. However, he dismissed Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer as a defendant, saying Palmer had no say in Branstad’s veto. There will be no trial, because the two sides agree on the facts of the case. Staskal said Thursday that he would rule on the legal questions within 30 days. Whoever loses the case then could appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Editorial: Is Branstad behaving like an autocrat?
Source: The Des Moines Register, September 27, 2015

Gov. Terry Branstad has established a pattern of governing that ignores the existence of 150 state lawmakers. When legislators complain, lawsuits allege an abuse of power, or Iowans die after being moved from a state home he closed, the governor is already focused on his next agenda item. … Though Iowa law specifies the state shall operate mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, the governor unilaterally shut down those facilities, too. At least three former residents have died while a lawsuit against Branstad makes its way through the courts. Now he is seeking to privatize Iowa’s $4 billion Medicaid program by handing over its operations to managed care companies. Without evidence this would improve the health of Iowans or details about how exactly it would save money, his administration has moved forward to transform the government health insurance program for 560,000 Iowans. It sought bids from companies and sent out a press release announcing the “winners.”

Judge: Branstad can be sued for mental-hospital closure
Source: Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register, September 21, 2015

Democratic legislators and the leader of the state workers’ union have the right to sue Gov. Terry Branstad over his closure of two state mental hospitals, a judge has ruled. … The Iowa attorney general’s office, representing the governor, countered the lawsuit by contending the union leader and the legislators could not show he exceeded his authority by vetoing money that would have kept them running. The state lawyers also contended the plaintiffs didn’t have grounds to sue because they couldn’t show they were directly harmed by the hospital closures. Judge Douglas Staskal disagreed with the governor. In a ruling filed last week, the Polk County district judge ruled that Homan and the legislators have “standing” to file the lawsuit. In other words, they showed that Branstad’s action harmed them specifically. The judge wrote that Homan had the right to sue because several dozen of his union’s members worked at the hospitals.

Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Branstad closing mental health facilities
Source: Bleeding Heartland, September 17, 2015

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s line-item vetoes of mental health facility funding can move forward. … But in a thirteen-page ruling, Judge Staskal rejected the state’s arguments that “the plaintiffs lack standing, have failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that the case presents a nonjusticiable political question.” He found that AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan has standing because he represents the interests of state workers who were laid off when the state government closed in-patient mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. The judge also noted that state legislators “have standing to challenge the propriety of the Governor’s exercise of his veto authority.” Judge Staskal found plaintiffs had stated a claim: “a challenge to the Governor’s exercise of his line-item veto authority.” As for the political question, the ruling noted, “Whether to close Clarinda and Mount Pleasant is a policy matter for the other branches of government. Whether the Governor’s particular use of his line-item veto power is constitutional is a matter for the courts.”

Jails Struggling with Mental Health Placement Following MHI Closure
Source: Rob Sussman, KBUR, August 19, 2015

The transition coordinator for Des Moines and Lee County Jails says that the closure of the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute is already putting a strain on the area’s correctional system. … In Des Moines and Lee Counties, they’ve changed the process for booking inmates in the jail to better screen for mental illness. … Kramer says that the closure of the Mount Pleasant MHI has created excess strain on the correctional system, making it more difficult to assist inmates with their mental health needs. “We’ve seen a lot of struggles with placement. Some people who would have formerly been able to get in a placement situation can’t because those beds are being taken up by former MHI patients,” Kramer explained. The MHI was closed last month after Governor Branstad opted not to approve funding for either the MHI in Mount Pleasant or the one in Clarinda.

Iowa Lawmaker Tours Cherokee Mental Health Facility
Source: Rachael Kraus, SiouxlandMatters.com, August 17, 2015

… Since then, three patients have died after being moved from the Clarinda facility over to private care, adding attention to the issue. The Governor’s decision to close facilities was met with praise and harsh criticism, even a lawsuit.  Iowa union members and some lawmakers filed a lawsuit over what they call the Governor’s ‘overreach’ of the law. … He says the facility isn’t the problem, it’s that it can house just 36 people and now it’s one of two facilities in the state after Gov. Branstad’s veto of funding for the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. Cherokee’s facility could be expanded to house at least 12 more patients, but that would require state approval.  The last time lawmakers put forward a bill that would fund mental health programs, it was vetoed. … Within weeks of closing down Clarinda, three patients died after being transferred to a new facility. Hogg says lawmakers can’t keep letting the system fail the patients.  He says there needs to be a hard conversation about the mental health system in the state, and see changes made. But that starts, he says, with making sure facilities that are already helping Iowans stay open.
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“HE WEIGHED 71 POUNDS. THAT WAS LIKE SOMEBODY STARVING.”

Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, August 2, 2016

I met Damien Coestly on my first day on the job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center, a private Louisiana prison then run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). I’d been sent to monitor the suicide watch cells in the segregation unit. … Prison records obtained from the Louisiana Department of Corrections by Anna Lellelid, the lawyer who currently represents his family, show that he went on suicide watch at least 17 times in the three and a half years before he died. … Mixed in with Coestly’s paperwork was a printout from CCA’s website on which he highlighted the phrase, “We constantly monitor the offender population for signs of declining mental health and suicide risk, working actively to assist a troubled offender in his or her time of need.” Yet mental health staffing at Winn was thin while I was there. It consisted of one part-time psychiatrist, one part-time psychologist, and one full-time social worker for more than 1,500 inmates. (CCA confirmed this, adding that “the staffing pattern for mental health professionals at Winn was approved by the Louisiana Department of Corrections.” However, DOC documents show that it had asked CCA to hire more mental health employees at Winn.) The prison’s single social worker told me that most Louisiana prisons had at least three full-time social workers. Her caseload, she said, included 450 inmates with mental health issues. …

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What you see when you go undercover at a private prison for 4 months
Source: German Lopez, Vox, July 13, 2016

When Shane Bauer packed his bags, he didn’t know what to expect. He wasn’t headed to a far-off country. He wasn’t going to a cabin or a beach. Bauer was off to work for the next four months at a private prison in Louisiana: the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield. Bauer’s experience, documented in a long piece for Mother Jones this month, exposes a prison in disarray. The inmates are violent, with stabbings a regular occurrence. The guards are demoralized — too outnumbered, understaffed, and underpaid to create a genuinely safe environment. The facility regularly experiences all kinds of other issues, from failing to provide adequate medical care to inappropriate sexual relationships between guards and inmates. And the company that formerly owned the prison, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), offered little reassurance in answering the more than 150 questions Bauer sent them in a lengthy back and forth through email. It was a system so chaotic and broken that it began to creep into Bauer’s mind. The longer he spent in the prison, he said, the more he began to act and feel like a guard and less like a journalist. He felt more aggressive, finding himself overbearingly asserting his authority while at the prison and even hoping for a fight while shooting pool at the local bar. …

Louisiana’s Private Prisons Are Facing Deep Budget Cuts
Source: Becca Andrews, Mother Jones, July 6, 2016

In the face of deep budget cuts, Louisiana’s private prisons are going to have to scrape by with a lot less. A recently enacted $29.3 million reduction in the budget of the state Department of Corrections will mean much smaller payments to private prison companies, which will see their per inmate rates shrink from nearly $32 per day to around $25, close to what sheriffs are paid to house inmates in local jails. In comparison, Louisiana spends roughly $52 per inmate per day in its state-run institutions. The cash crunch in Louisiana’s private prisons isn’t new, as documented by Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer, who spent four months working in a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. During the time he was at Winn Correctional Center, CCA received $34 per inmate per day. But the cost per prisoner at Winn, in real dollars, had dropped nearly 20 percent between the late ’90s and 2014, according to the state budget office. …

Opinion: Louisiana’s private and parish prisons are little more than warehouses
Source: Robert Mann, New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 1, 2016

The concerns that you and I should have with this are many. First, it suggests that Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) officials were paying insufficient attention to Winn’s operation. That raises questions about procedures at dozens of parish prisons across Louisiana, where 75.5 percent of parish prison beds are occupied by state inmates (the highest percentage in the nation), all housed for less than $25 a day. “Lock and feed is what I call it,” DOC Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc candidly told a reporter recently. Spend 20 minutes reading any one of Bauer’s stories and tell me if you feel comfortable knowing that people convicted of violent acts were supervised in such a cavalier fashion. … That said, it’s important to remember that Louisiana didn’t privatize Winn because corporations and sheriffs run superior prisons. They did so only to save money.  If you run a private or a smaller parish prison, “corrections” may be a foreign concept. It’s often about little more that housing inmates for the lowest cost to generate the most revenue. …

My four months as a private prison guard
Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, July/August 2016

I started applying for jobs in private prisons because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds 131,000 of the nation’s 1.6 million prisoners. As a journalist, it’s nearly impossible to get an unconstrained look inside our penal system. When prisons do let reporters in, it’s usually for carefully managed tours and monitored interviews with inmates. Private prisons are especially secretive. Their records often aren’t subject to public access laws; CCA has fought to defeat legislation that would make private prisons subject to the same disclosure rules as their public counterparts. And even if I could get uncensored information from private prison inmates, how would I verify their claims? I keep coming back to this question: Is there any other way to see what really happens inside a private prison? …

Why We Sent a Reporter to Work as a Private Prison Guard
Source: Clara Jeffrey, Mother Jones, July/August 2016

But while such investigations were commonplace in the muckraker era, they’ve grown increasingly rare. Why? First, there’s a real concern over ethics. When is it okay for reporters to not announce themselves as such? There’s no governing body of journalism, but a checklist written by Poynter ethicist Bob Steele provides guidelines for assessing when this kind of reporting is acceptable. … To see what private prisons are really like, Shane Bauer applied for a job with the Corrections Corporation of America. He used his own name and Social Security number, and he noted his employment with the Foundation for National Progress, the publisher of Mother Jones. He did not lie. He spent four months as a guard at a CCA-run Louisiana prison, and then we spent 14 more months reporting and fact-checking. We took these extraordinary steps because press access to prisons and jails has been vastly curtailed in recent decades, even as inmates have seen their ability to sue prisons—often the only way potential abuses would pop up on the radar of news organizations or advocates—dramatically reduced. There is no other way to know what truly happens inside but to go there. …

Shane Bauer Talks About His Four Months Working in a Private Prison
Source: Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

Mother Jones: How did you get the idea for this project?

Shane Bauer: The first time I thought about it was while talking to another reporter about writing about prisons. We were talking about Ted Conover’s Newjack, about his experience working as a guard at Sing Sing. I thought, “I should try that at a private prison.” There isn’t a lot of reporting on private prisons because they are not subject to the same public records laws as publicly run prisons and it’s pretty hard for journalists to get inside them. They’re a corner of the American prison system that we don’t know a lot about. …

MJ: How did Winn handle medical care and mental health care for prisoners?

SB: Prisoners regularly complained about medical care at Winn. I met a prisoner who had no legs and no fingers. He had lost them within the past year to gangrene. His medical records showed that he had made at least nine requests to see a doctor in that time. He would go to the infirmary and get sent back; the staff was suggesting that he was faking it. He said he showed the warden his feet, which were turning black and dripping with pus. But CCA had to pay to take a prisoner to the hospital, which costs a lot of money, especially when you consider it made $34 a day for each prisoner. …

Inside Shane Bauer’s Gripping Look at the Workings of a Private Prison
Source: Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

…Bauer’s article also includes profiles of guards and prisoners struggling to survive, “locked in battle like soldiers in a war they don’t believe in.” It also describes his reaction to the stress and risk of being a prison guard—a transformation that revealed the unsettling reality of one of America’s most difficult jobs. “More and more, I focus on proving I won’t back down,” he writes. “I am vigilant; I come to work ready for people to catcall me or run up on me and threaten to punch me in the face.” Shortly after Bauer left Winn in March 2015, CCA announced that it was backing out of its contract to run Winn Correctional Center. Documents later obtained by Mother Jones show that the state had asked CCA to make numerous immediate changes at the prison, including filling gaps in security, hiring more guards and medical staff, and addressing a “total lack of maintenance.” Another concern was a bonus paid to Winn’s warden that “causes neglect of basic needs.”…

The Corrections Corporation of America, by the Numbers
Source: Mother Jones, July/August 2016

The Corrections Corporation of America launched the era of private prisons in 1983, when it opened a immigration detention center in an former motel in Houston, Texas. Today the Nashville-based company houses more than 66,000 inmates, making it the country’s second-largest private prison company. In 2015, it reported $1.9 billion in revenue and made more than $221 million in net income—more than $3,300 for each prisoner in its care. …

CCA Documents
Source: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, June 23, 2016

Here are legal documents and other records that provided valuable information for Shane Bauer’s investigation into the Corrections Corporation of America’s private prisons. …

What We Know About Violence in America’s Prisons
Source: Mother Jones, July/August 2016

Safety is an issue in all prisons, but accurate data on violence in prisons can be hard to come by. Here’s a look at what we know about physical and sexual assault in America’s prisons—and what was reported at the private prison in Louisiana where Shane Bauer worked. …

WHAT JOSÉ DE JESÚS’ DEATH REVEALS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH IN DETENTION CENTERS

Source: Raquel Reichard, Latina, July 25, 2016

Last year, José de Jesús Deniz Sahagun traveled across the Mexico-U.S. border in an attempt to reunite with his three children in Las Vegas. Those plans were interrupted when he was found and taken to a detention center. In the three days that he was locked up, de Jesús tried running away several times, hurt himself so badly that he was taken to a hospital and, ultimately, took his own life. … According to their research, 160 immigrants have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the last 13 years. Since 2005, at least seven of those deaths have been by suicide, and five of those occurred at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, where de Jesús passed away. Eloy, which is owned and operated by one of the U.S.’ largest private prison companies, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has “constant complaints about medical care, mental health care,” said Victoria Lopez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. … When de Jesús was brought to Eloy from the hospital, the center did not document his doctor visit or suicide attempt. But a psychologist in the facility did place the man on suicide watch with a guard observing him for 24 hours. The next day, de Jesús was removed from suicide watch but kept in solitary confinement, with a guard checking in every 15 minutes. During a 5:30 check, a patrol found de Jesús faced down without movement. … That wasn’t Eloy’s only error. According to an internal investigation, the detention center neither had a mental health staffer on call 24 hours a day nor a suicide prevention plan, despite there having been three such deaths in three years.

Milwaukee’s Mental Health Hospital Privatization Still Underway

Source: Lisa Kaiser, Shepherd Express, July 12, 2016

The Milwaukee County Mental Health Board had intended to decide this summer on outsourcing the operations of the county’s psychiatric hospital. But that decision’s been delayed—and that’s a good thing, according to the board’s chair, Duncan Shrout. … The Milwaukee County Mental Health Board, an all-appointed board of behavioral health experts who took over the county supervisors’ authority over the county’s mental health and substance abuse programs in 2014, voted last year to privatize the hospital, which serves children, teens and adults and includes the county’s only psychiatric emergency room. The hospital privatization plan is part of the county’s efforts to downsize its in-patient services and provide more services within the community. It closed down its remaining long-term care units in the hospital at the end of 2015, and has a capacity to care for up to 60 adult patients in the hospital, although staff shortages often lower capacity to around 50. Many of the patients have legal issues and very serious mental illnesses and require highly skilled, specialized care. … Just two bidders responded to the county’s RFP last summer and BHD administrators suspended the process in October. Days later, Health and Human Services Director Héctor Colón announced he’d seek a single-source contract with a vendor and make the transition in 2018 instead of rethinking the county’s privatization plans and revising the RFP. …

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Holloway proposes mental health redesign / Private vendors would jointly operate small-scale facilities
Source: Steve Schultze, Journal Sentinel, January 12, 2011

Milwaukee County would create a series of small-scale mental health facilities jointly operated with private vendors under a reform plan Acting County Executive Lee Holloway outlined Wednesday. …. The community mental health units would be staffed and overseen by county employees but managed and owned by private mental health agencies, according to Holloway’s plan. Retaining county workers was a key provision, aimed at getting union buy-in, he said. The private firms selected by the county would get a negotiated rate for caring for patients, an approach Holloway said was borrowed from HMOs and could help control costs. He also envisions a two-tier pay structure in which new employees would earn less than those now employed by the county at the Mental Health Complex – something he said could dramatically lower costs over time.

Union denied restraining order against hiring subcontractors at troubled psychiatric hospital

Source: KTVU, June 23, 2016

Attorneys representing psychiatrists and the administration that operates Alameda County’s beleaguered John George Psychiatric Emergency Room fought over a restraining order on hiring Wednesday. … Staff members have long complained they’re often overwhelmed and can’t meet patient demand putting their safety and that of their patients at risk. In Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward Wednesday an attorney representing John George told Judge Scott Patton he agreed overcrowding was an issue and that justified hiring from an outside contractor. … The solution according to Alameda Health Service, or AHS, is to contract out to a private company to provide additional psychiatrists. … Fellow John George psychiatrist Dr. David Schatz told KTVU the move to hire a private company to replace the current doctors has been brewing for some time. … At the end of the hearing the judge ruled in favor of Alameda Health Service. Judge Scott Patton said of AHS, “They’re not trying to replace services. They’re trying to provide services that are not currently being performed because of staffing shortages.” The doctors say they still have a chance to make their case at a future hearing through arbitration. …

The State Paid Nearly $28 Million for a Flawed System That Fails to Meet the Needs of Its Veterans Homes

Source: California Department of Veteran Affairs, Report 2015-121, June 2016

Our audit concerning the development and implementation of the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ (CalVet) Enterprise-Wide Veterans Home Information System (system) revealed the following:

  • The system has not improved the efficiency of the homes’ process for documenting medical care nor has it reduced reliance on paper because of system flaws.
  • System instability and concerns about functionality resulted in CalVet implementing fewer system functions at some homes, thereby limiting CalVet’s ability to provide more efficient care for veterans. …
  • CalVet did not exercise adequate oversight of its system project. It did not complete or partially completed six of the 12 required management oversight plans to ensure effective project management. It hired one contractor to provide both independent project oversight and independent verification and validation services, and those services were inadequate.

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Morton Hospital bans psych subcontractor in wake of rampage

Source: Jennifer Miller, Boston Herald, May 12, 2016

“Effective today, Morton Hospital has banned the state selected sub-contractor Norton Emergency Services AKA Taunton Attleboro Emergency Services (NES/TAES) from evaluating or recommending treatment for any patient at Morton Hospital,” Morton Hospital spokesperson Michele Fasano said in a statement. “During the period of 12:30A.M. to 8:00 A.M. this morning, NES/TAES failed to evaluate multiple patients in our Emergency Department in a timely way and when Morton Hospital proposed to do the evaluations ourselves we were rebuffed or ignored by the subcontractor. This inability of the state subcontractor to provide critical and timely services continues to put patients at risk.” … Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told the Herald yesterday the Department of Public Health is investigating procedures at Morton Hospital, where relatives say a depressed and delusional Arthur DaRosa, 28, checked in Monday night but was discharged early Tuesday morning to the family’s surprise. Authorities say DaRosa then stabbed two people in a home on Myricks Street — killing an 80-year-old woman and injuring her daughter — Tuesday night before driving four miles, crashing a car into the front entrance of a Macy’s department store at the Silver City Galleria, and getting out to attack several others, including inside a restaurant, killing a 56-year-old teacher, authorities said.

“NES/TAES is subcontracted through MassHealth and is charged by law with the responsibility of evaluating MassHealth patients who enter the Morton Hospital Emergency Department,” Fasano said in the statement. “Morton Hospital has previously advocated to utilize our own hospital credentialed and vetted medical personnel to conduct such evaluations as it does with Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts, and other payers. However, state policy has mandated that these evaluations be carried out by third party subcontractors such as NES/TAES. …

Mendocino County spent $46.8 million for mental health contracts in three years

Source: Adam Randall, Daily Journal, May 7, 2016

Mendocino County has spent $46.8 million for its contracted adult and children’s mental health services in the three years since going to a privatized system, according to a report compiled by Health and Human Services staff. … For the 2015-16 fiscal year, the HHSA’s staff report suggests $577,565 was spent for various services ranging from psychiatric care to data reporting. The figure excludes what the county spends for substance abuse disorder treatment. HHSA staff were asked by the Board of Supervisors in February to compile a full report of all mental health-related contracts, including those for Ortner Management Group and RQMC, along with subcontracts entered into by both providers, since 2013. The matter has since been referred to the Health and Human Services Standing Committee.

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Grand jury: Mentally ill not getting crisis care in Mendocino County
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, June 15, 2014

Crisis care is lacking for Mendocino County’s most severely mentally ill because of a poorly-worded contract drafted when the county privatized its mental health services, according to the Mendocino County grand jury. The county contracted out its adult mental health services to Ortner Management Group in May 2013, and, according to a report the grand jury recently released, “The imprecise language and provisions included in the contract for privatization results in ineffective services for clients who are diagnosed as Level 3, the most severely impaired.”…

Privatization of Mental Health Delivery Services
Source: Mendocino County Grand Jury, June 9, 2014

An Appearance of a Conflict of Interest in the Adoption of the Mental Health Privatization Contract
Source: Mendocino County Grand Jury, June 9, 2014

…The Grand Jury received complaints regarding perceived conflicts of interest in awarding the Mendocino County contract for the administration of adult mental health services to the Ortner Management Group. Certain individuals employed by the County with current and previous associations with Ortner had the opportunity to have undue influence in the awarding of this contract. During the investigation, the Grand Jury determined that no apparent illegal activity was carried out by any individual; however, there were sufficient opportunities for these individuals to have used undue influence in the selection process. …

Springfield Hospital workers ask Hogan to reconsider possible job cuts

Source: Jon Kelvey, Carroll County Times, March 31, 2016

A half-dozen food service workers from Springfield Hospital Center fanned out around a strip mall of small businesses in Eldersburg on Thursday afternoon, each clad in the bright green T-shirts of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to protest potential job cuts on the horizon. Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed fiscal year 2017 budget would eliminate 57 food service positions at the facility, and the workers were there to speak with local business owners and the community about their plight. … Hogan’s budget eliminates funding for the food service jobs at Springfield, presumably bringing in a private contractor to handle service, with a projected savings of $1 million, according to Jeff Pittman, a union spokesman. He and the food workers present Thursday afternoon are not so sure that’s as good a deal as it sounds.

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Springfield Hospital workers, local business leaders question Hogan over proposed job cuts
Source: Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun, February 27, 2016

The move, which the state health department has said would save $1 million, has been questioned by legislative leaders in Annapolis who cite the fact that the state is projected to have a $400 million surplus this year. … Matthew A. Clark, a Hogan spokesman, has said the administration is working to make sure employees who lose their jobs find new ones, in state government or elsewhere. He said Hogan is “focused on making sure every state agency runs as efficiently as possible while delivering the best service to taxpayers.”

Editorial: Hogan’s penny pinching
Source: The Baltimore Sun, January 28, 2016

… Thanks to a rebounding economy, Maryland now expects to finish the current fiscal year with about $420 million more in tax collections than analysts expected at this time last year. The budget for the current year, fiscal 2016, is in “structural balance,” meaning that ongoing revenues exceed ongoing expenditures … Despite the flush balance sheet, the governor has made a number of penurious decisions. He is funding step increases for state workers but not a general cost-of-living increase. He is eliminating a net of 553 positions in state government (though most of them are currently unfilled). … Moves like outsourcing food service at Springfield Hospital (and the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents-Gildner) may result in greater efficiency, or they may result in worse service. Deciding not to give state workers a raise at a time when state revenues are coming in much higher than expected may help put the governor in a position to offer substantial tax cuts in the years ahead, but it may also contribute to low morale, high turnover and poor performance.

Some question Maryland layoffs given budget surplus
Source: Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, January 26, 2016

The jobs of dozens of low-level state workers at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville are on the chopping block in Gov. Larry Hogan’s $42 billion proposed state budget. … Senate President Thomas V. Miller questioned Tuesday whether the job cuts are necessary when the state is projecting a surplus of more than $400 million this year. … Warren Deschenaux, the General Assembly’s chief fiscal analyst, said Tuesday that his agency had yet to receive a full accounting of the 553 state positions slated for abolition under Hogan’s budget proposal. He said his understanding is that about 100 positions would be contracted to private firms. … It was not clear how many of the abolished positions are vacant and how many would involve layoffs. Hogan administration officials declined to provide specific layoff figures Tuesday. …

Bump okays privatization of SEMass mental health services

Source: New Boston Post, March 31, 2016

In a win for the Baker administration, Auditor Suzanne Bump on Wednesday approved the privatization of government mental health services in southeastern Massachusetts, citing $7 million in savings and drawing a sharp rebuke from a union president who says the clearance threatens critical services. The Department of Mental Health’s privatization proposal affects emergency mental health services in a region covering Brockton, Fall River, the Taunton and Attleboro areas, and Cape Cod and the Islands. Under the proposal, the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) will contract with Bay Cove Human Services Inc. and Community Counseling of Bristol County to provide services. … To assess the quality of services under a private contractor, Bump’s staff visited facilities and met with community members, department officials and MBHP officials. The auditor determined that all services currently provided will be provided under the MBHP model “but at a lower costs while maintaining the same quality.”

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Auditor OKs plan to privatize some mental health services
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2016

State Auditor Suzanne Bump has approved a proposal from the state Department of Mental Health to privatize emergency mental health services in the department’s southeastern region. Bump said Wednesday the change could save $7 million over one year. … The area includes Brockton, Cape Cod and the Islands, Fall River, Taunton and Attleboro. Under the proposal, the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership will contract with Bay Cove Human Services, Inc., a Boston Medical Center subcontractor, and Community Counseling of Bristol County to provide the services.