- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - State officials say staff vacancies have declined at West Virginia’s state-run psychiatric hospitals following court-ordered pay raises.

Vacancies at William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston dropped from 67 in January to 33 as of Dec. 15. Vacancies at Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital in Huntington declined from 19 to 17 during the same period. In January 2014, Sharpe had 38 vacancies and Mildred Mitchell-Bateman had 13, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported (https://bit.ly/22kcjau ).

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom had ordered the pay raises, which were introduced in January, in an ongoing case centering on the treatment of patients at the hospitals. Department of Health and Human Resources officials gave Bloom an update on the hospitals during a hearing on Thursday.

The number of patients also has declined at each hospital. Sharpe, which is licensed for up to 150 patients, had 139 as of Thursday. Bateman is licensed for up to 110 patients and had 97 patients, said Victoria Jones, commissioner for the Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities.

Also Thursday, a letter from Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, was introduced in response to a request from the court. Drennan’s letter said providers are concerned about other state programs, including the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program and the shift of new Medicaid patients into managed care.

The waiver program provides support to caregivers and allows disabled people to live as independently as possible. It would lose up to $90 million in funding under a proposal the DHHR submitted in May to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Drennan’s letter said his members fear changes under managed care have created too much uncertainty for providers.

Jeremiah Samples, DHHR deputy secretary for public health and insurance, said he felt Drennan’s letter did not reflect the core issues of the case, which the letter referred to as the Hartley case.

“It seems to be that the issues that were brought up in terms of things that are happening now, but things that potentially could happen,” he said. “As far as managed care is concerned, if there is any individual that isn’t receiving the care they should, we aren’t aware of it, because we’ve been very explicit with the plans that they must and shall take care of these individuals as provided in their contract. Beyond that, we don’t feel that those issues, as raised . have anything to do with Hartley.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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