2013 News

MNA/NNU Applauds Decision by Cambridge Health Alliance to Keep Child Psychiatric Unit Open


The Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United applauds a decision by the Cambridge Health Alliance (see statement by CHA below)  to continue to operate its award-winning child psychiatric unit that provides acute psychiatric care to young children who suffer from serious mental illnesses.  The decision follows a finding by the Department of Public Health, issued last week, that the unit provides an essential service for vulnerable children from throughout Eastern Massachusetts and should be maintained. 

The MNA/NNUwas a leader, along with other mental health and provider groups, in an effort to save the unit. 

“We are thrilled by today’s announcement and what it means for the children throughout Massachusetts who desperately need the care this program provides,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the MNA/NNU and a nurse at Cambridge Health Alliance’s Cambridge Hospital campus.  “There is a dramatic shortage of beds and services for the mentally ill in Massachusetts of all ages, and particularly for children and adolescents. This unit is an important component of the health care safety net for the mentally ill in our state,   While we celebrate this victory, our organization continues to work with all stakeholders and the recently established Mental Health Commission to address a growing mental health crisis in the Commonwealth.” 

For more information, contact David Schildmeier at 781-249-0430

Message from Patrick Wardell, Chief Executive Officer, and Jay Burke, MD, MPH, Chief and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry
We are pleased to let CHA staff know that Cambridge Health Alliance will continue operations at both the Child Assessment Unit (CAU) and Adolescent Assessment Unit (AAU) during the next fiscal year while we continue to work with policymakers, stakeholders, and insurers to identify long-term policy and reimbursement that will allow the programs to be sustainable.

Following our announcement last month to integrate the Child Assessment Unit (CAU) and Adolescent Assessment Unit (AAU), we received an overwhelming outpouring of support from elected officials, advocates, patient families, and local residents, who rallied in support of the award-winning, top-quality care provided at both units. Our decision to withdraw our unit integration notice to the Department of Public Health was informed by this support and encouraging progress, though still underway, that we have made over the past several weeks to identify potential short-term funding to partially offset the financial shortfalls we experience due to inadequate insurance reimbursement.
We understand how critical our inpatient mental health services are to our communities and region, a fact underscored by the deep community support we have received. With mental health accounting for 43% of our inpatient services, it is difficult to counterbalance the significant shortfalls associated with this service. At the same time, our emphasis on mental health makes us unique as a critical safety net provider. We are encouraged by the resounding community response about the value of our mental health services and are extraordinarily appreciative of the committed steps by elected officials and the Administration in working collaboratively with us to find short-term pathways to sustain the services.
We would like to offer a special note of thanks to the staff at the CAU and AAU – it is their dedication and care that have made such an impact on our communities. We also know that this situation has created uncertainty that impacts them in a very personal way, and we appreciate their support throughout this process.
We plan to operate the CAU and AAU during the next fiscal year, during which time longer-term solutions are actively explored together with policymakers, stakeholders, and insurers that share in the responsibility in promoting mental health access and parity.