DHEC cites impact on medically underserved groups, other providers in denial
Greenville Health System has asked the state Department of Health and Environmental Control board to reconsider the agency’s decision to deny a certificate of need for a new psychiatric hospital.
GHS announced plans in November 2016 for a new 120-bed psychiatric hospital on the site of the old Blood Connection building. The facility was to replace Marshal I. Pickens Hospital and be built in partnership with Acadia Healthcare, a national health care giant that has 579 facilities in 39 states, the United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico. Acadia would manage the day-to-day operations of the hospital, while GHS would provide clinical oversight.
But the certificate of need application drew opposition from those concerned the move could further strain a state system that already struggles to provide timely access to inpatient psychiatric care to some adults.
Because the new facility would be a freestanding hospital, it would be unable to bill Medicaid for any care provided to eligible adult patients between the ages of 22 and 64. Currently, Marshall Pickens may bill Medicaid for treatment of eligible adults because it is part of the Greenville Health System. GHS had said the new hospital would provide inpatient and outpatient services to adult Medicaid patients even though it won’t receive reimbursement for those services.
State mental health hospitals have had significant decreases in the number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds over the past 18 years, although the number of beds has been stable for several years, said Mark W. Binkley, deputy director of the division of administrative services at the state Department of Mental Health, in a letter to Louis Eubank, director of DHEC’s certificate of need program. At the same time, the state’s population has continued to increase.
“As a result, the problem of timely access to adult inpatient psychiatric care has become a significant problem in some areas of the state,” Binkley wrote. While the Department of Mental Health supports efforts to increase the number of available adult psychiatric hospital beds, Binkley said in his letter that transferring existing licensed beds from Marshall Pickens to the new hospital would increase demand for state beds when the system already is unable to timely admit referred patients.
State Reps. Garry Smith, Mike Burns, and Dwight Loftis and state Sen. Tom Corbin also wrote a letter voicing the same concerns.
In addition, Springbrook Behavioral Health and the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health, psychiatric hospitals in Greenville County, said the new hospital would unnecessarily duplicate their services because they both rely on Marshall Pickens’ ability to accept adult Medicaid patients that they cannot.
DHEC denied the application because it determined that medically underserved groups could lose access to psychiatric care and that other providers in the area could be adversely impacted by the new hospital.
GHS said it believed DHEC’s decision was “made in error.”
“We hope that DHEC will allow us to proceed with this innovative plan, which will allow GHS, as part of a joint-venture partnership with Acadia Healthcare, to actually expand much-needed behavioral health services in our area,” said GHS spokeswoman Sandy Dees. “Under the projections for the new partnered hospital, services provided to adult Medicaid patients were expected to increase over what GHS could currently provide by itself.”
“The state of mental health in the Upstate is at a crossroads. It will take innovative partnerships like the one we have developed with Acadia to meaningfully address the serious mental health needs of our community. We hope and believe that the DHEC board will agree that our plan is a good, solid one and grants us the approval to start building this new hospital,” she said.
If the DHEC board chooses to hear the appeal, Grove Point and DHEC staff will present their case in an upcoming board meeting, said Tim Kelly, DHEC director of media relations. If it chooses not to hear the appeal, Grove Point could move for a contested case hearing in the Administrative Law Court, he said.