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Editorial: Sharpe Hospital’s loss of Medicare, Medicaid funding causing issues throughout mental health care

From The Exponent Telegram of Clarksburg:

For years, complaints have mounted at Sharpe Hospital in Weston, from lack of staffing to poor quality of care.

Now, the hospital has lost the ability to be reimbursed through the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, leading to shakeup of how mental health care is being provided throughout the state.

State officials have been forced to transfer some patients who formerly were being cared for at private facilities, like Highland-Clarksburg, back to Sharpe to help offset lost funding and the costs of patient care.

These patients don’t fall under the federal funding, with many of them charged with criminal offenses, but found innocent by reason of mental illness.

Sharpe’s 150 beds aren’t enough to serve the region, with patients sent to Highland-Clarksburg and other facilities. The state pays those private hospitals between $750 to $800 per day for treatment of those patients housed there as part of a court order.

By recalling those patients to Sharpe, the state saves money. And in return, it is sending those patients who are paid for through Medicare and Medicaid to the private facilities.

But here’s the rub: Many of those private facilities aren’t set up to provide the care for the federally funded patients, many of whom are older and require more medical attention.

And according to those familiar with health-care costs, the federally funded patient subsidies to hospitals is only about half of what the state currently pays for the criminally charged patients.

So far, private facilities like Highland-Clarksburg are adjusting, working with state officials to switch out the patient load. To do so, Highland-Clarksburg is hiring temporary workers.

But the state has said it plans to return to the prior arrangements once it receives certification to receive Medicaid and Medicaid funding again.

It has hired a consultant to help identify ways to solve the issues which led to the issues with the federal programs, which included inadequate documentation, insufficient treatment plans and lack of interventional follow up, which combined could have caused inadequate or delayed treatment, according to Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch.

The issues at Weston, as well as other state-run facilities, haven’t developed overnight. In fact, complaints date back many years.

Which should lead state officials to ponder whether it is adequately equipped to be operating mental health facilities, and if not, how treatment can be provided to those who need it.

Here’s what is obvious — or at least should be: West Virginia can’t continue to operate a mental health system that is failing in its mission. And the two federally funded programs’ decision to stop funding cause serious questions about Sharpe Hospital’s and the system’s operation.

Those responsible for any shortfalls in care and treatment should be held responsible. And if it is determined that the private sector can better treat mental health patients, then that is the direction the state should go.

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