State to Close Lakeshore Mental Health Institute

From the News Sentinel:
Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney has announced that closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute on June 30, 2012, is part of plans for changing mental health in Tennessee.
Varney said community services will be expanded by leveraging three existing contracts with private psychiatric mental-health providers in East Tennessee: Covenant Health (Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center); Mountain States Health Alliance (Woodridge Hospital of Johnson City), and Ridgeview Community Mental Health Services of Oak Ridge.
“Moving these mental health services into the community where our patients live allows them to start the process of recovery near family, friends and local community mental health support services,” Varney said in a statement. “Our intent is to promote care that is of the highest quality and delivered in the most efficient and effective way. We believe this new model accomplishes those goals.”
Varney said the changes are part of a national trend to close state facilities, owning to improved medications, shifts in public policy and studies that show community-based services have better outcomes. He said Peninsula, Woodridge and Ridgeview “have been serving this population effectively, efficiently and successfully through the current contracting process and are committed to begin accepting new admissions.”

“Peninsula has the capacity and expertise to accommodate Lakeshore’s patients, and we consider it part of our not-for-profit mission to extend services to these very vulnerable individuals within our community,” said Tony Spezia, president and CEO of Covenant Health, which owns Peninsula. Peninsula includes a 155-bed treatment center as well as outpatient centers in four counties.
Over the past 30 years, he said, Lakeshore, which has around 180 beds, has gone from serving approximately 2,300 patients daily to serving approximately 90 patients today.
Lakeshore employees reportedly were told of the upcoming changes in an email from Varney on Thursday.
“We value and appreciate the employees of Lakeshore and recognize their unique skills and dedication to providing high-quality care to the mental health community,” he said. “We are committed to working with them in every way we can to help find employment opportunities through our inpatient hospital partners, other community mental health providers and state agencies.”
“To the extent that Peninsula’s staff resources need to be expanded to better serve former Lakeshore patients and their families, we will, of course, give priority to displaced Lakeshore employees,” Spezia said.
The full closure of Lakeshore will occur on June 30, 2012. During the transition, patients will be “assessed and properly referred to other state hospitals or community alternatives as appropriate,” the state said.
The state said it will work with the city on a plan for the land that Lakeshore occupies, off Lyons View Drive. Earlier this year, the state transferred 35 acres as part of a 1999 agreement that provides for the conveyance of Lakeshore land to the city.
In September, the Metropolitan Planning Commission rezoned the space to prevent development, including possible housing for homeless people.

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