A psychiatric residential treatment facility designed specifically for kids and teenagers in East Bethel is closing for good on Friday, a little more than a year after it opened.
"After many years of finding the right community to build in, construction starts and delays, opening the doors during a pandemic (which brought about staffing challenges and affected the census and thus, our ability to pay for this facility), licensing issues, and bad press, we are forced to close our doors," said Leslie Chaplin, president and CEO of The Hills Youth and Family Services, which owns Cambia Hills of East Bethel, as well as Woodland Hills and Cambia Hills of Duluth.
The facility opened in March 2020 as one of only two mental health treatment facilities in Minnesota licensed for children. The company said it provided a space kids and teenagers as they battled mental health issues by offering "medically managed service and basic education." The facility was often a stop for people between hospitalization and going back home for outpatient care.
The facility will close for good, with all clients discharged and care staff off the premises, by 3 p.m. Friday, Chaplin said in a post on the facility's website this week, noting at that time their funding "will be exhausted."
"There is simply no more money for payroll and we can’t ask people to work when we know we can’t pay them," Chaplin said.
The money Cambia has been bringing in, including from bondholders, isn't enough to keep the doors open, and Chaplin said a "significant piece of this perfect storm" is due to the Minnesota Department of Human Service (DHS) not giving Cambia Hills a commitment on rate adjustments.
According to DHS, it uses Medicaid funds to pay for services provided at facilities like Cambia. The state Legislature initially set a standard payment rate but it put DHS in charge of the process last year. DHS says it's working to finalize the rates, which then need federal approval.
Cambia Hills has struggled since opening at the start of the pandemic and was cited by state regulators for multiple violations, including maltreatment, DHS' website shows.
Last fall, DHS put Cambia's license on conditional status until licensing-related violations were addressed, DHS told Bring Me The News. DHS and Cambia Hills reached a settlement agreement in January and Cambia Hills has been working to meet the conditions of the settlement, which included ongoing monitoring of operations at the facility, the Star Tribune said.
“Our focus right now is the health and safety of the children served by Cambia Hills. We are doing everything we can to assist Cambia Hills in providing an appropriate transition to another facility that can meet residents’ needs," DHS Assistant Commissioner Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa said in a statement to Bring Me The News. "By providing only two days’ notice of intent to close, Cambia Hills is violating its obligations under its license and state contract."
“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," Matemba-Mutasa added.
Cambia says it is working to find a new place for clients to go, but some clients will be returning home.
"I can assure you that, today, we have the most dedicated and amazing staff who did whatever it took to keep our clients safe and going down a path to their successful treatment here," said Chaplin, who was hired in March of this year. "We couldn’t be more devastated for everyone involved and the lasting impact this closure will have on so many. We are truly sorry it ended this way and we thank you for your support."
Matemba-Mutasa said DHS worked with Cambia Hills to secure alternative placements for all residents, taking into account the health and safety of the children. All placements were completed prior to the facility closing.
The East Bethel Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the closing of the facility, calling the work people were doing there "remarkable."