Fayette County's Mental Health Contract: Gone Loco? (See clarification below)
That the county of Fayette seems to be moving toward yanking its mega million dollar mental/behavioral health
contract from Highlands Hospital in Connellsville and giving it to Uniontown Hospital is big news.
Some saw this coming, when new board members for the county's mental/behavioral health board were seated 6
months ago. This followed after the county chairman received political contributions from the Uniontown
Hospital CEO and a doctor or two from that facility where his wife also works.
But reaction from mental health professionals not employed by the county or Uniontown Hospital consistently has
been one of shock. They might have noticed that commissioners placed a number of physicians and the director
of nursing from Uniontown on the county's mental/behavioral health advisory board, but did not imagine that the
long-standing One and Two West Units at Highlands could lose the county's mighty medicad funding contract.
Blame managed health care for part of this and the fact that the county receives 3% of the profits brought in by
medicaid funding for mental/behavioral health services. Although the county receives the 3% profit no matter
where the dollars are spent, logic seems to reason that more money can be made for the county if Uniontown has
Blame the rest on power kicks just because they can pull it off and leave another county hospital in what likely
will be a financially doomed position -- i.e., unless the brains in the think tank can direct some alternative business
Mental health professionals not employed by the county or Uniontown Hospital consistently have exclaimed, "But
Uniontown Hospital turned away ambulances!" of mental health consumers en route there for emergency room
medical clearances before being involuntarily admitted to psychiatric units at other hospitals, including Highlands.
This, indeed, is true. The ambulances were turned away after managed health care started and the county "Six
Pack" deal started with Value Behavioral Health to manage the medicaid spending for mental health services for
Fayette and 5 other counties.
It, in all fairness, must be noted that prior to that time, Uniontown emergency room doctors, such as Dr. Corrado
and nurses welcomed us county delegates in to meet family members, state or local police, write the mental
health 302 court orders, and gave us a room to coordinate the transfers to psychiatric hospitals. Highlands and
Brownsville Hospitals also graciously welcomed us county delegates to share their space to write mental health
inpatient court orders and coordinate transfers to community psychiatric units. All of the 3 hospitals bent over
backwards to welcome us.
But after managed health care started and the county office stopped delegates from leaving their homes to work,
Uniontown Hospital started to turn away the ambulances with mental health consumers inside because that
facility did not want its staff to assume the role that we delegates performed on site.
Some of us couldn't believe it and never forgot it.
Now it appears that the decision to give the county's contract to Uniontown Hospital is more of a done deal than
a remote possibility. Two of the county commissioners even want to invite the Uniontown CEO to a meeting with
the Highlands CEO. The third commissioner, who wanted to investigate the issue last week, was not consulted
and not asked to sign or given a copy of a 5-day old letter to the Highlands CEO that was emailed today.
That one contract could make or break a hospital is a big deal.
Commissioner Vince Zapotosky wrote here two days ago to say,"HH (Highlands Hospital) has provided mental
health for over 30 years when it was not a popular service." He is absolutely right about that fact. Brownsville
Hospital, over the years, opened a geriatric psychiatric unit that started to accept younger persons over time as
However, Uniontown Hospital never did these things, only until more recently -- i.e., after its Taj Mahal
renovation and expansion into a high-tech facility, after Brownsville Hospital was shuttered and after
mental/behavioral health funding has gone through the roof.
The second seat commissioner also told this editor that Highlands Hospital has revenues only around $25 million
and that "any loss of revenues could bring with fiscal hardship." He is absolutely right about that fact as well.
On the other hand, he said, although Uniontown Hospital has seen its own fiscal problems, that facility has
revenues of around $125 million. Bingo! We have a winner!
When back door deals are made, the deals cannot appear to be anything but shady to the public. Reader mail on
this subject is overwhelmingly opinionated to be one of distrust and disgust. After all, these are the men who
misrepresented the county's financial status months ago, either because they wanted to do so or were just stupid.
Now we're expected to believe that they are smart enough to make a sound decision here?
Uniontown Hospital has $100 Million more in revenue than Highlands does and should not need this contract.
County leaders are foolish to mess with the fate of Highlands Hospital by pulling the rug out from under it in this
manner. And they're foolish, so foolish, to forget the fact that ambulances of mental health patients were turned
away from using the Uniontown emergency room for medical clearances.
Brownsville Hospital closed because of financial reasons. Highlands Hospital appears to be in direct missle range
of being destroyed by its own army, just because the foolish or stupid army can.
24 Jul 12
(Editor's Clarification Note: As is, Fayette has 2 inpatient psych units, at Highlands and Uniontown
Hospitals. No contract, per se, was "pulled" from Highlands Hospital. Uniontown Hospital obtained
provider status 3/12 from Value Behavioral Health to serve patients, ages 18-55, for treatment. This is in
addition to a previous approval received for its geriatric unit in service for about 2 years.)