Highlands Should Meet Publicly

Maybe 60.

Wrongly, I guesstimated way too low before the RTK arrived. I thought that there would have been only
about 60 out of county psych hospitalizations in the year after Fayette acquired a second, brand new
inpatient psychiatric unit. I did not expect to see a 251 total or a revised, still high number of 177-188.

Just about 60 adults is what I expected to see.

Even though the behavioral health director informed me that the hospital count that I quoted from RTK
admissions included Fayette children hospitalized for psychiatric treatment out of county, she provided
accurate adult hospitalization count of 177-188, minus the 50 some kids.

Yes, 177-188 is better than 232. The out of county psych hospitalization numbers for adults is less in the
first year after Uniontown Hospital became a county Medicaid inpatient psych provider. But no way near
being low numbers to brag about, though.

Fayette had 232 out of county admissions with one open psych unit at Highlands prior to Uniontown
Hospital's licensing and opening. One would think that we would have a larger drop, more than just the
44-55 less out of county hospitalizations, in the first recent year that the county had two inpatient units
operating in Fayette.

Yeah, I thought maybe around 60 or so, with two psych units open instead of just one.

Even though Highlands Hospital is said to have finished last year with a financial profit, that facility on
at least one known bleak day in 2012 was down to three patients receiving treatment. That it finished
last year with the best financial news that it had heard in over a decade doesn't mean it hasn't had to
bite the bullet and lay off some staff.

Unless it was a patient's wish to go to a specific psych hospital and that hospital accepted him/her, it
would be a real shame if even one patient has been transferred out of county simply because of
employees from two hospitals upset with one another. And it's even a much bigger shame if this is
happening and is allowed to continue to happen. Mental health patients should not be jerked around
because of politics.

That Highlands' lawyer wrote to the county solicitor and commissioners that the Connellsville hospital
reps and he want to talk about the opinion they obtained from the former long-time chief counsel for
the commonwealth's Department of Public Welfare on Fayette's inpatient psych contracts really is an
early Christmas gift to the county. One even with pretty bows and a professionally gift wrapped look.
That kind of gift.

That the Highlands people seem still genuinely interested in wanting to meet and talk and -- by virtue of
some extra special delivery of the early Christmas present -- the Highlands people through their lawyer
stated in writing that they wanted the ears of two, then three commissioners, to review that former
DPW legal guru's bombshell letter and ask for a vote.

I understand Highlands' consistent request to meet privately with commissioners. But I've started to
have mixed feelings about it.

Since they do not want a private meeting to ask the behavioral health director why she didn't disclose
that she approved a new psych unit to be a county behavioral health Medicaid provider and why another
hospital is paid more for providing the same care... and since Commissioner Vince Zapotosky no longer
seems interested in a meeting with all involved so that the department director would have to explain
her actions, why hold out for a private meeting or separate, individual meetings with 3 commissioners?

Highlands should welcome a public meeting, I am starting to believe.

And to make sure all 3 commissioners are present, start with a county agenda meeting. The county
commissioners and solicitors have most definitely by now reviewed Attorney Kane's legal opinion and
interpretation of DPW regulations. It's not as though anyone on the county's end is tossing around
meeting dates. And, face it, when the county's interim solicitor says he doesn't blame his friend, the
commission chairman, for not wanting to meet with Highlands Hospital representatives, how else will
the matter be heard?  

Yes, Highlands, please gather up your solicitor and CEO and appear at the next agenda meeting to ask
for a vote on the contract at the next regular county meeting and to speak publicly before the vote.

Public discussion of Attorney Kane's legal opinion that's opposite of the county HealthChoices solicitor
would pretty much guarantee the county solicitor will chime in on the discussion. Placement on the
agenda also likely would result in the director of the behavioral health department having to be at the
meeting as well.

Highlands would know where it stands, one way or the other.

The placement on the agenda of the issue of the contract and the Kane opinion also opens up the topic
for general public comments.  

That prospect of general public discussion on this subject should be enough in itself for the
commissioners to want to meet anyway they can privately instead.

But if not, then Highlands needs to do whatever it has to to press the subject. Being on the public
meeting agenda list is starting to make sense. Highlands has always been a great advocate for those with
mental illness. It's time they speak up for the patients being jerked around in the political mess, as well
as themselves.  

24 May 13
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