- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas leaders are closer to privatizing a much maligned North Texas psychiatric facility despite concerns from mental health care advocates.

The Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/10gnPsj ) reports state officials announced Monday that Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions has the winning bid to operate Terrell State Hospital, which employs 980 staffers and serves more than 250 patients.

“In the event that this happens, we’re honored to be chosen as the successful vendor for this project,” company spokesman Jeremy Barr said.

The state and company are negotiating the deal and a decision on whether to move forward with the privatization should be made by the year’s end. State health officials said privatization might be the best way to improve the hospital, which was scrutinized following a patient death.

“We need to look at all the options on how we can deliver better care,” said Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission.

A 62-year-old Pittsburg woman died at the facility in 2013 after being restrained for 55 hours. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shortly thereafter cut off federal funding because of poor conditions at the hospital.

Mental health advocates have protested the privatization move and said there has been a lack of transparency in the bidding process. They say they were blindsided by the move to put a private company in control of the hospital.

“There was a shocking lack of transparency in the process, which raises alarms about transparency in the contracting and oversight of the facility and patient care,” said Lynn Lasky Clark, president of Mental Health America of Texas.

Still, state officials say they are listening to those concerns.

“We’re going to work closely with advocates and others on the level of services that we should be providing and how to get there,” Goodman said.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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