Involuntary psychiatric admissions at a Ventura hospital were suspended this week after multiple violations as state officials said they would monitor compliance and members of a public advisory board. The council said it should have been informed months ago about the potential closure.
Loretta Denering, acting chief of Ventura County’s department of behavioral health, imposed the suspension through Dec. 5 at Vista del Mar Private Hospital. But Denering suggested Monday that the 87-bed hospital could reopen those admissions if it makes the necessary changes.
“Vista del Mar has been given a transition plan if they choose to accept it,” she told the Ventura County Behavioral Health Advisory Board at a meeting in Oxnard.
She did not disclose what that plan entails with a lay panel that assesses mental health needs and makes recommendations on funding. The board includes customers, family members, public officials, nonprofit executives and others.
But county officials released a copy of the document on Tuesday after a request from The Star. The 15-page plan calls for multiple steps to ensure employees are properly trained, the plant is safe, laws are followed and patient rights are protected.
County spokeswoman Ashley Humes said officials must show Denering that the hospital meets all of the plan’s requirements in order to lift the suspension.
Denering disclosed the suspension in a letter to hospital CEO Colton Reed a week ago, citing dozens of issues focusing on negative outcomes, failure to meet requirements and “chronic and continue” through at least 2021. Denering said she is suspending hospital authorization for involuntary patient admissions based on those issues and a “lack of progress” by hospital officials hospital to fix it.
Denering said she will go to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in December to confirm the decision. The suspension could continue until the problems are corrected, she said, or she could recommend terminating the hospital’s license to admit those patients.
Vista del Mar is no longer designated as a facility authorized to treat involuntary patients under California’s landmark Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.
The law sets out restrictive conditions under which patients may be detained against their will because they are at risk of harm to themselves or others or are severely disabled.
Officials at Vista del Mar declined to return repeated calls from The Star for comment on the suspension.
Vista del Mar provides involuntary treatment for adults as well as adolescents 12 to 17 years of age.
The county’s only other inpatient psychiatric unit at Ventura County Medical Center admits adults involuntarily but not adolescents. That means youth in that age group must go outside the county for inpatient care, according to the order.
County officials said they expect more patients to go to hospitals outside the county and that use of local outpatient crisis units will increase during the suspension. Patients can receive intensive services in less than a day at crisis units, potentially preventing hospitalizations in a county where advocates have long complained about a lack of inpatient bed.
With the suspension of operations at Vista del Mar, the county is now making only 43 licensed inpatient beds available for involuntary admission.
State licensing officials said they are aware of Denering’s decision and will monitor the hospital to ensure it is properly complying with the suspension. Hospitals can continue to admit patients voluntarily and remain licensed.
Several members of the advisory board said they were caught off guard by the suspension and did not learn about it until Oct. 9 when Denering told them about the action following an 18-month investigation.
Denering said Behavioral Health Director Scott Gilman, who is on leave, notified the board through a warning he issued to the hospital in June.
Several board members said they did not recall any announcement, adding that an examination of board documents from that period would prove that.
Board member Liz Warren said: “We as an oversight and accountability board want to know at the beginning of the 18-month review, not at the end when an action is decided perform”.
Board members are expected to discuss the proposal to warn them earlier about possible actions against vendors at a future board meeting.
Kathleen Wilson covers crime, courts and local government for the Ventura County Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0271.
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