Mental health group raises alarm over possible closure of St. Paul hospital

The advocacy group is opposing any attempts to shut down the hospital.

The possible closure of a hospital in St. Paul is being questioned by a national advocacy group for mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) say it is "distressed" by reports that M Health Fairview could consider closing St. Joseph's Hospital.

"St. Joe’s is a vital component of Minnesota’s mental health system providing care to thousands of people struggling with mental illnesses and substance use disorders," NAMI said.

The future of St. Joseph's in downtown St. Paul, which is Minnesota's first hospital and dates back to 1853, is the subject of a meeting of M Health Fairview's 19-member board later this month.

The Pioneer Press reported earlier this week, the board operating the nonprofit is considering layoffs within its hospitals and clinics, and the potential closure of St. Joseph's within the next few years as part of a cost-cutting exercise that would allegedly see it shift focus to suburban medical facilities.

The potential closure sparked a social media campaign over the past week, using the hashtag #StJoesServesStPaul.

M Health Fairview told BMTN that no decisions were "being considered or have been made" regarding St. Joseph's at its Board of Directors meeting on Thursday.

"Like many healthcare systems across the country, Fairview is working to determine how we can deliver high-quality care more affordably for our patients," the statement added.

"We will work with our patients, our clinical leaders and the community to determine how we can best serve downtown St. Paul.

"During this time, one promise remains non-negotiable: we will continue to provide excellent care to those who need it. We are grateful to our physicians, providers, nurses and staff for the compassionate care they provide to our patients. We will continue to communicate important decisions to our employees, stakeholders and the public."

In its statement on Thursday, NAMI says the prospect of closing St. Joe's comes as the country's mental health system is struggling to cope with mental health crises and the ongoing drug epidemic.

"The boarding at emergency rooms and the transporting of people across the state in search of an open bed is well known," it says. "Closing beds – that are already in short supply – will exacerbate the problem."

NAMI is also questioning the possible closure by citing M Health Fairview's 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment, which identified mental health and well-being as it's number one priority.

"What has changed in eight months to basically reverse this decision and ignore their own findings?" said NAMI Minnesota’s executive director Sue Abderholden. 

"The answer is nothing. The needs have not decreased – they have increased."

BMTN has reached out to M Health Fairview for comment.

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