The Federal Government has decided to stop funding a psychiatric hospital after the facility failed to make safety improvements following an incident in August where a patient fell and ended up in intensive care. The development is the latest glitch for North Carolina’s battered mental health system. It sounds like a case of not throwing good money after bad, but, as seen in this report, there is concern about the lack of funding, which they say is needed for proper care of patients. Even though this was not happening before.
North Carolina taxpayers will fork over an extra $1 million next month to treat mental health patients because the federal government cut funding for one of the state’s four psychiatric hospitals.
And the price tag could soar higher if the state can’t convince the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to reverse its decision.
The government cut funding for Broughton Hospital because the facility failed to make safety improvements after a patient fell in August and ended up in intensive care, according to a federal report made public Friday. Another patient died at the hospital in February while in restraints, kicking off the recent federal inspection, according to state officials.
The development is the latest glitch in North Carolina’s battered mental health system. A reform plan started in 2003 to get people out of state-run hospitals and back into the community has resulted in a series of rate cuts that have meant less money for local providers.
This is first time one of North Carolina’s public psychiatric hospitals has lost federal funding.
“There is no question we were surprised,” said Jim Osberg, chief of state operating services for mental health.
About 22 percent of the hospital’s 295 monthly patients are covered by federal dollars. Broughton, located in Morganton, is the only public psychiatric hospital for Western North Carolina.
Osberg said Broughton reviewed its procedures after the February fatality and made changes that were accepted by federal inspectors.
But when inspectors went back in August to check out the plan, they found another patient had been injured, according to the Friday statement from the Department of Health and Human Services.
That led them to recommend the funding cut, Osberg said.
The federal funding cut comes at a bad time for North Carolina as it works to fix its failed reform system.
In April the state threatened to slash the hourly amount it pays local providers by 40 percent but later backed off. The rate was cut from $61 an hour to $51. In July, the state made its third rate cut with a drop between 5 and 9 percent.
The cuts have the potential for sending more people to the state’s hospitals as providers scale back their services or get out of the business all together. WNC has already lost one provider – ARC N.C.
A special team will arrive on Tuesday at Broughton, which is the only public facility serving Western North Carolina.
It will include experts from other state institutions, including a psychiatrist and a nurse specialist with Medicare and Medicaid inspection experience. They will work with Broughton staff to fix problems.
After the state’s review and changes, federal government inspectors will be asked to re-inspect the hospital. If that inspection clears Broughton, the state could get its funding back.
The process will take at least 30 days and maybe longer, Osberg said.
State mental health Director Mike Moseley, in a written statement Friday morning, said his staff will work to make sure Brought doesn’t permanently lose its federal dollars. In the meantime, he said the public needs to know care will continue.