Cambia Hills of East Bethel, one of Minnesota’s few intensive mental health care facilities for high-risk teens, abruptly announced this week that it would close its doors on Friday.
The facility, which has struggled since opening during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been cited by state regulators for licensing violations, said it has not received a requested fee increase from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to continue operations.
“We can’t go on without some kind of emergency funding,” said Leslie Chaplin, chief executive of the facility’s parent corporation. “We had no other options because I can’t just pay people to work.”
Cambia is one of only two residential psychiatric treatment facilities licensed for children in Minnesota. It is designed to provide intensive mental health care for children that bridges the gap between outpatient care and hospitalization.
“These are kids with extremely high needs,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota. “I don’t know what they expect these families to do. Once again, families are left in the lurch, with no options for their children.”
Chaplin said state payments were not sufficient to pay for treatment costs and that she was unable to obtain a commitment from state authorities on rate increases. Private insurance is not an option for most patients, she said.
Transition plans are being made for existing patients, Chaplin said.
“Some of them are going home,” she said. “We were able to work with some of our local community health providers to ensure that children were supported at home.”
DHS said it would also try to help patients who were left in an “unfortunate situation”.
“By providing just two days of notice of intent to close, Cambia Hills is in breach of its obligations under its state license and contract,” said Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa, assistant DHS commissioner.
Chaplin acknowledged that Cambia should have provided a 27-day closing notice, but said bondholders had reached the $1.5 million threshold in emergency funds.
“We were hoping to have a few months, definitely at least a month, to maintain calm and timely communication and work on some really detailed transition plans for the kids,” she said.
Cambia was operating under a settlement agreement with DHS regulators that required ongoing monitoring of the facility’s operations. The deal came after the facility was cited for several violations of state regulations.
“We certainly made a lot of mistakes,” said Chaplin, who was signed after a change in direction. “I had to correct a lot of mistakes.”
At one point last year, the Minnesota Department of Health, which also regulates the facility, threatened to stop all state and federal funding after Cambia failed to reveal that a resident had been taken to the hospital due to significant blood loss following an attempt. of suicide. Funding continued after Cambia agreed to comply with reporting requirements.
It is unclear what the closing of Cambia will mean for the future of Minnesota’s residential child psychiatric care facilities.
Chaplin said low payment rates and bureaucracy make it difficult to operate these types of facilities.
“The system that was created by DHS is now unworkable,” said Chaplin.
DHS said it expects new treatment facilities to be established.
“While this situation is regrettable, it does not lessen the need for residential psychiatric care facilities, nor does it diminish our commitment to seeing this level of care become available to more Minnesota children,” said Matemba-Mutasa.
This is a story in progress. Check startribune.com for updates.
Glenn Howat • 612-673-7192