City Council resolution to preserve mental health unit put on hold

  • City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud withdrew her resolution urging Baystate Health to preserve Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s mental health unit East Spoke until after new city councilors take office in January. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2019 10:00:53 PM

GREENFIELD — City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud withdrew her resolution urging Baystate Health to preserve Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s mental health unit East Spoke until after new city councilors take office in January.

The resolution, which requires a two-thirds vote by City Council to pass, urges Baystate Health not to close East Spoke — one of three proposed closures along with mental health units at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer — and cites statistics about mental health in Franklin County as submitted by Renaud.

She said she withdrew her motion for two reasons. First, she felt she could be a better advocate for the ordinance “from the other side of the table,” after her term as a councilor ends. Renaud works as a communications employee for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Secondly, she said the City Council has a full agenda for its December meeting, which she proposed splitting into two, as was done in November.

“Baystate is still planning on shutting down the mental health units,” Renaud said in an interview Friday. “It still remains an important issue. I think with the timing, I would have recused myself from the conversation, and after I leave the council I think I’ll be able to advocate for the ordinance better.”

On Nov. 6, Baystate Health announced it will not move forward with the proposed behavioral health unit in Holyoke in alliance with US HealthVest following a Seattle Times investigation into the for-profit behavioral health provider that caused Baystate Health to reconsider the alliance. The investigation reported that US HealthVest 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.

However, President and CEO of Baystate Health Mark Keroack has emphasized Baystate’s continued interest in developing the property at Lower Westfield Road 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,” Keroack said at the time. “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.”

According to a February press release, one of the reasons Baystate officials opted to close the existing mental health units in Greenfield, Westfield and Palmer 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.”

The potential closure of the 22-bed East Spoke psychiatric unit saw local pushback. The Greenfield City Council discussed a resolution to Baystate Health urging it to preserve East Spoke during a June meeting. However, the matter was tabled by the council, which hoped to convince Baystate representatives to attend a meeting to answer questions.

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


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