Cambia Hills of East Bethel, one of the few intensive mental health treatment facilities in Minnesota for high-risk adolescents, abruptly announced this week that it would shut its doors Friday.
The facility, which has struggled since opening during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been cited by state regulators for licensing violations, said it had not received a requested rate increase from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to continue operations.
“We can’t continue without some sort of emergency funding,” said Leslie Chaplin, chief executive of the facility’s parent corporation. “We did not have any other options because I can’t simply pay people to work.”
Cambia is one of only two psychiatric residential treatment facilities licensed for children in Minnesota. It was designed to provide intensive mental health care treatment to 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 kids.”
Chaplin said that payments from the state were not enough to pay for treatment costs and that she had been unable to get a commitment from state officials on rate adjustments. 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 make sure that kids have support at home.”
DHS said it would also try to assist the patients who have been left in an “unfortunate situation.”
“By providing only two days’ notice of intent to close, Cambia Hills is violating its obligations under its license and state contract,” said Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa, an assistant commissioner at DHS.
Chaplin acknowledged that Cambia should have provided a 27-day notice of closure, but said that bondholders had reached the $1.5 million limit in emergency funding.
“We hoped we would have a couple of months, for sure at least one month, to do some calm and timely communication and work on some really detailed transition plans for kids,” she said.
Cambia was operating under a settlement agreement with DHS regulators which required ongoing monitoring of facility operations. The agreement came after the facility had been cited for several violations of state regulations.
“We certainly had a lot of mistakes,” said Chaplin who was hired after a management shake-up. “I had to clean up 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 disclose that one resident had been taken to the hospital due to significant blood loss after attempting suicide. Funding continued after Cambia agreed to adhere to reporting requirements.
It is unclear what Cambia’s closure will mean for the future of psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children in Minnesota.
Chaplin said the low payment rates and bureaucratic red tape makes operating these types of facilities difficult.
“The system that has been created by DHS is now unworkable,” Chaplin said.
DHS said it hopes that new treatment facilities will be established.
“While this situation is unfortunate, it does not diminish the need for psychiatric residential treatment facilities, nor does it lessen our commitment to see this level of care become available to more Minnesota children,” said Matemba-Mutasa.
This is a developing story. Check startribune.com for updates.
Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192