Behavioral Health Division to begin negotiations with Universal Health Services for psychiatric hospital

Would replace Mental Health Complex hospital

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The Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division has the green light to begin formal negotiations with Universal Health Services Inc. to run an acute-care psychiatric hospital that would replace the hospital at the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa.

The Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex at the Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa.

The county’s mental health board voted unanimously Thursday for the BHD to begin negotiations with the Pennsylvania-based hospital management company on its proposal for a new inpatient hospital.

The board’s decision could soon bring an end to a more than two-year-long search process for a provider to take on the services currently offered at the psychiatric hospital at 9455 W. Watertown Plank Road.

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It’s part of the groundwork being laid to ultimately close down the 900,000-square-foot campus that was built in the 1960s to accommodate patients in need of acute, long-term and emergency psychiatric care.

BHD is in a multi-year process of shifting services off its aging, over-sized campus and into community-based care, while also improving preventative care.

BHD first began its search for an organization or company to outsource its acute care services to in 2015. UHS and Nashville-based Correct Care Solutions emerged as two viable possibilities early on, but Correct Care Solutions later withdrew its bid. In the spring of 2017, three area providers, Rogers Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Ascension, expressed interest in submitting a joint proposal, but pulled out of the running a few months later.

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It’s left UHS as the sole vendor bidding on the contract.

As part of a months-long due diligence process, members of the county task force commissioned with making a recommendation have completed site visits of UHS facilities and reviewed a formal proposal that was submitted in November.

If a contract is awarded, the transition of services from BHD to UHS would take about two-and-a-half years. Under the current timeline, patients could be served in a new facility as early as early 2021.

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A location for the proposed new hospital has not been disclosed, but BHD administrator Michael Lappen has said UHS does have a site identified. It would be the provider’s first Wisconsin facility.

UHS currently operates 350 facilities in 37 states.

In December 2017, members of the mental health board’s task force questioned representatives of UHS regarding concerns raised by a BuzzFeed News investigation that showed video footage of staff members beating and dragging young patients at a UHS facility in Alabama. According to county documents, Karen Johnson, senior vice president of clinical services for UHS, said the incident occurred more than two years ago and was “handled by employee discipline and/or termination.”

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