Updated: Baystate, US HealthVest to not move forward with Holyoke behavioral health hospital

  • In February, Baystate Health announced its plans to close the behavioral health unit at Greenfield’s Baystate Franklin Medical Center, pictured, along with its counterparts at the Baystate hospitals in Palmer and Westfield, in trade for a behavioral hospital in Holyoke. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2019 12:42:18 PM

GREENFIELD — Baystate Health and US Healthvest have agreed not to move forward with the proposed behavioral health unit in Holyoke.

“Baystate remains committed to its plans to expand the availability of, and to consolidate, inpatient behavioral health services for patients in its service area, and we intend to move forward with these plans,” according to a press release from Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack. “We will continue to focus on providing an enhanced patient care environment in a state-of-the-art facility, increased access for adults, expanded access to specialized care for children and adolescents, and integrated and coordinated care. As we move forward, we recognize that we cannot do so alone, and we will work to identify a new partner in this effort.”

In August, Baystate Health announced it was reviewing its alliance with US HealthVest after a Seattle Times investigation reported the company, a national for-profit behavioral health provider, brought to Washington state “a model proven to deliver profits that has routinely failed vulnerable patients.” The investigation detailed patient neglect, fraudulent documentation of care, dangerous staffing levels and even an assault linked to cost-saving efforts.

The Seattle Times wrote that, at Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital, nurses and hospital staff were “told to notify the hospital’s chief executive any time a patient asked to leave early, internal records show, and several patients have complained that staff delayed their release or tried to intimidate them into staying.”

The article also stated, “executives would yell at hospital staffers if they released patients whose insurance had authorized a longer stay.”

In February, Baystate Health announced its plans to close the behavioral health unit at Greenfield’s Baystate Franklin Medical Center, also known as East Spoke, along with its counterparts at the Baystate hospitals in Palmer and Westfield, during the next two years in trade for a behavioral hospital in Holyoke.

“While we plan for the future, the operation of the current inpatient behavioral health units will continue as usual,” Keroack wrote. “We are committed to ensuring, for our staff and for our patients and their families, that these units continue to operate smoothly and efficiently, and we will continue to deliver the same level of high-quality care that our community deserves and expects from us. Ambulatory behavioral health programs and services (outpatient and partial hospitalization) will continue to remain in local communities.”

According to a February press release from Baystate, one of the reasons Baystate officials opted to close the existing units is because “current community hospital facilities where this care is provided are aging and decentralized. A hospital dedicated to the inpatient needs of behavioral health patients will provide a much-needed resource for the region.”

Along with local legislators, members of the Greenfield City Council and Massachusetts Nurses Association have been opposed to closing the behavioral health units. The Greenfield City Council has a resolution on its November agenda urging Baystate Health to preserve East Spoke.

The resolution was tabled at its June meeting and hasn’t come before the full council since then.

“Baystate Health should have done its homework in the first place and never partnered with a for-profit company that was treating its patients and staff so disgracefully,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric nurse at Baystate Franklin and senior co-chair of the hospital’s Bargaining Committee. “We are glad that Baystate has heard the concerns of the community and ended its partnership with US HealthVest. Now Baystate must listen fully and promise to keep care local no matter what. Local mental health services in our communities means better access and higher quality care. We should be expanding mental health care in our communities, not making cuts and moving it away.”

Before Baystate expressed formal interest in the Holyoke site, it formed B2 Health LLC with US HealthVest, which registered with the state in November 2018.

B2 Health LLC purchased the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority at 45 Lower Westfield Road for $250,000.

“We are in discussions with the city of Holyoke regarding our continued interest in the development of the property on Lower Westfield Road,” Keroack wrote.

“We cannot trust the kind of decisions Baystate makes in regard to with whom they choose to open a for-profit facility with,” Stern added. “But we know one thing we can trust is the local care we provide now in our communities. If Baystate wants to expand something that already works, then why not expand local mental health care?”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or mbourdeau@recorder.com.


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