UHS Threatens Closure of Texas Behavioral Health Facility Following Medicare Termination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 25, 2015
CONTACT: Amy@UHSBehindClosedDoors.org

The nation’s largest provider of inpatient behavioral health has closed or sold 22 of its behavioral health facilities since 2011, many of which abruptly ceased operations after regulators uncovered problems.

DALLAS, TX.-On August 14, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated Timberlawn Mental Health System from the Medicare program due to “deficiencies that represented an immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety” and repeated failures in remedying safety risks.

Officials at Timberlawn, a subsidiary of the S&P 500 hospital operator Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS), stated that the termination and loss of federal funding will lead UHS to close the facility because they “simply do not have the financial capability to sustain [them]selves with revenue.”

According to CMS, however, “Timberlawn’s assertion that its own closure is inevitable rings hollow” because  “Timberlawn has not proved—and could never prove—that UHS is incapable of bearing the expense of keeping Timberlawn in operation…”  due to the remarkable profitability of the Fortune 500 company. In 2014 alone, the UHS reported over $8 billion in revenue and more than $545 million in net profit.

Yet, according to Timberlawn, the facility “is certain to close its doors soon after it is terminated from Medicare due to a loss of funding sources – including the evidence supporting refusal of its parent company to continue to fund the hospital for months or even years …” Adding, “it does not matter…that the company can afford to fund the hospital, if it will not…”

The potential closure of the Timberlawn facility is just the latest in a string of facilities UHS has chosen to shutter, or threatened to close, after regulators uncovered problems.The following cases suggest that UHS would prefer to abruptly cease facility operations, rather than dedicating resources to address the regulatory and quality of care deficiencies at its troubled facilities.

  • Rock River Academy (Rockford, IL) closed in April 2015 following a December 2014 Chicago Tribune investigation, which described the facility as “violent, chaotic and under-resourced.” The Tribune found that many students were fleeing the facility and some were being drawn into prostitution. State officials suspended new admissions to Rock River in December 2014 and ordered its administrators to take corrective action, but UHS decided to close the facility instead.
  • Bristol Youth Academy (Bristol, FL) closed in January 2014 after Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice chose not to continue contracting with the facility in August 2013 over concerns about “quality and price.” The decision not to extend the contract came in the wake of a July 2013 U.S. Department of Justice report showing more than 10% of facility residents reported sexual victimization.
  • Gulf Coast Youth Academy (Fort Walton Beach, FL) closed in October 2013, just one month after the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice terminated its contract with the facility for failing to correct “critical issues” with safety and security practices. The contract termination was prompted by a youth brawl at the facility, which left teachers injured and hospitalized.
  • Keys of Carolina residential treatment facility (Charlotte, NC) was reportedly closed by UHS in February 2013 amid regulatory scrutiny for patient care issues. Prior to the closure, the facility was facing a list of violations from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and a $6,000 administrative fine for violations of laws regarding the “protection from harm, abuse, neglect or exploitation” of patients. State officials said conditions in the facility were “found to be detrimental to the health and safety of the clients” and were in the process of revoking the facility’s license.
  • Milton Girls Juvenile Facility (Milton, FL) requested to end its contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and closed in December 2012, on the heels of an admissions freeze enacted following allegations of youth abuse.
  • When Marion Youth Center (Marion, VA) closed in early 2012, UHS claimed it was shutting down because the facility had lost its lease.But two-and-a-half months later, UHS reached a $6.85 million deal to settle charges that the center did not provide the therapeutic level of care it claimed. Upon settling the suit, Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human services, said, “Any organization providing substandard health services then sending inflated bills to taxpayers, as UHS is alleged to have done, can expect intense scrutiny by government investigators.”
  • On April 11, 2011, CMS notified Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital (Kansas City, MO) that the facility would be terminated from the Medicare program due to identified deficiencies of such a serious nature that placed patients’ health and safety at risk.While Two Rivers successfully fought the termination action in court, its court documents argued that Two Rivers would be forced to close, if the injunctive relief the facility sought was not granted.

More information about UHS is available here, which includes a full list of the 22 facilities UHS has closed or sold since 2011. At least sixteen of those facilities had faced legal, regulatory, or quality of care complaints before UHS ceased operations.

UHSBehindClosedDoors.org is bringing to light serious problems in care at Universal Health Services, the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health care. It is an online resource for mental health advocates and caregivers supported by the Service Employees International Union.