Nami Minnesota is very concerned about that the mental health system may lose around 100 desperately needed inpatient psychiatric and substance use disorder beds at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
"There was finally recognition that losing [the mental health beds] would be devastating to our mental health system, so that’s a positive," Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota said. "We are cautiously optimistic, but the issue isn’t solved yet."
Please review the article below and do one of the following:
-Write a letter to the editor in your local paper.
-Write a letter to Fairview’s President James Hereford, raise your concerns, and tell your story about ER boarding or being sent far away to access hospital level care. If you know any of the board members, please contact them as well. Send letters to Mr. Hereford at the following address:
James Hereford, President
Fairview Health Services, Corporate Building
2450 Riverside Avenue
Minneapolis MN 55454
If you write a letter to President Hereford or a letter to the newspaper editor please send a copy to NAMI Minnesota as well. Closing St Joseph’s will affect the entire mental health community. We can’t let this happen.
By Carrigan Miller – Staff writer, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
Feb 13, 2020, 3:00pm EST
Fairview Health Services has a plan to keep its embattled St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul at least partially operational by sharing the hospital’s administrative burden with what it calls a “community coalition.”
The health system has reached out to a broad range of potential partners, including nonprofits, health systems, the government and insurance companies, a spokesperson said.
The plan is intended to preserve the hospital’s 105 in-patient mental-health beds, the most at any one facility in the Upper Midwest. The system will submit a request for proposals on the plan next week, Fairview CEO James Hereford said on Wednesday.
In-patient mental health beds are threatened because of low reimbursements that rarely cover the costs of operating them, but getting rid of them entirely would lead to worse health outcomes and other unexpected costs, Hereford said.For example, without sufficient in-patient beds, many patients suffering from psychiatric issues will go to the emergency room, which costs both the patient and the health system more in the long run.
Other markets have already made progress on the community coalition model. Hereford pointed to Portland, Ore., where a mental health center similar in size to St. Joseph’s and operated by four institutions opened in 2017, and San Diego, where a coalition project is planned.
Minneapolis-based Fairview first disclosed that it might close St. Joseph’s in internal memos in Nov. 2019. Bethesda Hospital, another St. Paul facility run by Fairview, was also singled out as the subject of cuts, and many of its employees have already been laid off or left the hospital.
Mental health advocates are pleased about the news, including Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota and someone who hasn’t been afraid to criticize Fairview in the past.
"There was finally recognition that losing [the mental health beds] would be devastating to our mental health system, so that’s a positive," she said. "We are cautiously optimistic, but the issue isn’t solved yet."
In all, Fairview plans to cut 20 percent of its costs over the next three years, which will amount to savings of about $600 million. The cuts are a response to a shifting health care market. Fairview reported an operating loss in 2019 and expects to again in 2020. Moody’s Corp. has rated Fairview’s credit “negative” since 2018.
The system has focused on St. Paul recently. This year, Fairview has had over 100 meetings in the city including with local politicians, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the congregation of nuns who founded St. Joseph’s in 1853, and Fairview’s own employees.
Fairview had no hospitals in St. Paul or the east metro before 2017, when it merged with HealthEast Care System. Both St. Joseph’s and Bethesda were HealthEast hospitals, and both were already struggling at the time of the merger, Hereford said. In fact, those struggles were part of the reason HealthEast sought a merger.
“We knew going in that there were going to be challenges,” he said.
By gaining scale through the merger, the combined organization was able to save $40 million, Hereford said.
Business people in downtown St. Paul want to keep St. Joseph’s open.
"St. Joseph’s is one of our cornerstone institutions and we really value them," said Joe Spencer, the president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, adding that Fairview is one of downtown St. Paul’s major employers.
The majority of Fairview’s cost savings won’t come from St. Paul, Hereford said. The organization hopes to cut costs across the organization through steps like an increased use of telehealth technologies, new partnerships with local organizations on primary care, and streamlining the organization’s back-office work with new technology like AI.
Hereford had always known that getting Fairview on track would be difficult. From the time he took the job, he’s viewed himself as a mechanic working on a long-term project. In a 2017 interview with Advisory Board, he compared running the health system to having a broken down Ferrari in your garage.
How’s the car doing now?
“I would say that we have the chassis put together. The engine’s coming together. It’s more recognizable as a car as opposed to a collection of parts,” Hereford said. “We’re road legal, but you don’t want to push it.”
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Call 800 523-3333 or text the word “MN” to 741741
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