Join the effort to save mental health beds in Western MA and urge Gov. Charlie Baker to halt all hospital closures: www.massnurses.org/MentalHealth.
HOLYOKE, Mass. – A coalition of registered nurses with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, along with patients, families, advocates and elected officials who have been fighting for the preservation of mental health beds across Western Massachusetts have launched a new campaign, “Mental Health is Public Health” to save essential inpatient psychiatric services.
The effort comes as Trinity Health plans to close 74 pediatric and adult psychiatric beds at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Baystate Health seeks the closure of all its mental health beds in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield, and the coronavirus (COVID-19) places additional pressure on already strained emergency departments and other hospital services throughout the region.
The MNA has sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary MaryLou Sudders and the Massachusetts Legislature detailing recommendations from the perspective of front-line nurses and healthcare professionals. One recommendation is to halt all bed and facility closures. “This is not a time to be eliminating capacity at our healthcare facilities,” the letter from RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams says.
Core themes of the Mental Health is Public Health campaign:
- The lack of quality inpatient mental health services and the impact of that shortage on patients, their families and communities has been widely documented.
- Patients wait hours or even days in emergency departments – including at Trinity-owned Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and Baystate hospitals throughout the region – for mental health treatment they need to successfully recover.
- Proposed mental health bed closures will put additional strain on a system facing a public health crisis in the coronavirus (COVID-19). As guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH) stated, “the surge in volume of patients with possible exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 illness” could “overwhelm the capacity of emergency departments” (Circular Letter DHCQ 02-03-701).
- Despite this, Trinity Health refuses to stop its planned closure of 74 pediatric and adult mental health beds at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. Trinity is also proposing to close a methadone clinic in Springfield that serves approximately 600 patients. Baystate Health continues its plan to find a for-profit partner to open a new centralized facility and close local psychiatric beds in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield.
- The coalition calls on Trinity and Baystate to preserve these essential mental health beds and pledge to invest in additional inpatient services to help patients who are struggling to access local, quality care.
“These proposed closures would devastate an already strained mental health system,” said Cindy Chaplin, RN at Providence and Co-Chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee. “Right now, we need to maximize capacity in emergency departments and other hospitals units, not decrease services. When everyone else in Massachusetts agrees we should be making it easier for patients to get high-quality mental healthcare, Trinity Health is going in the opposite direction.”
“Despite its tremendous financial resources, Baystate Health is choosing to cut back on vital mental health services in our communities at the exact wrong time,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric nurse at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, senior co-chair of the BFMC Bargaining Committee and a board member of the MNA. “Our coalition is made up of people who would be directly impacted by the plans to close local mental health beds. We are calling on Baystate and Trinity to uphold their non-profit missions to provide equal access to high-quality care.”
Mental Health Crisis
- The Boston Globe has reported that “Some patients with mental illness, particularly children, are spending days stuck in tiny windowless rooms in hospital emergency departments waiting for treatment…” https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/07/17/long-waits-persist-for-children-mental-health-crises/iD2trxkXIlYtqmsuoqTWII/story.html
- The National Council on Aging reports that “Two-thirds of older adults with mental health problems do not receive the treatment they need. Current preventative services for this population are extremely limited.” https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/healthy-aging-facts/#intraPageNav2
- The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health details the long wait times for mental health treatment for children, many of whom wait days in emergency departments for inpatient care. Children wait 4 or more days for inpatient mental health care 3 times as often as adults: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dmh/publications/acute-inpatient-services-special-populations.pdf
- A 2013 New England Journal of Medicine article noted the “silver tsunami” of aging adults who will have mental health problems but a lack of treatment availability: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1211456#t=article
- Harvard University researchers in 2015 found there are an estimated 101 “stuck kids” waiting in emergency departments for mental health care in Massachusetts: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/degree%20programs/MPP/files/15%203%20MPP_PAE_Emily%20Hartmann%20Katherine%20Schiavoni_StuckKids.pdf
- A MassLive.com article describes the mother of a 6-year-old in Berkshire County struggling to find timely mental health services for her son and details statewide data showing psychiatric patients face long waits for treatment: https://articles.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/12/massachusetts_children_with_me.amp
Hospital Corporation Background
Trinity Health operates 92 hospitals and 106 continuing care facilities in 22 states. Trinity has a workforce of 131,000, annual operating revenues of $19.3 billion, and assets of $27 billion, according to Trinity. The organization had more than $650 million in offshore accounts as of fiscal year 2017.
In a letter from Trinity to DPH dated February 28, 2020, the Michigan-based hospital chain said it has “proposed discontinuation of the licensed 50-bed inpatient Psychiatric Service and 24-bed inpatient Pediatric Service at its Providence Hospital Campus.” Trinity said it plans to submit the 90-day closure notice required under law to DPH on or about March 31, 2020. After that, DPH can schedule a public hearing to decide if the services are essential. The MNA has proposed legislation to strengthen the state’s hospital closure law.
Baystate Health made $68.1 million in profits in fiscal year 2018, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis. Noble Hospital made $1.2 million that year in profits. Through the first three quarters of 2019, Baystate made $59.7 million.
Baystate is planning to close inpatient mental health beds at community hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield, and closed its intensive care units at Noble Hospital and Wing Hospitals. Patients, nurses, advocates and elected officials have come out strongly against the closures.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.