Children's behavioral facility cited

Children's behavioral facility cited
Dave Hartford, COO and Chief Administrator at Cambia Hills of East Bethel in March, 2020

Investigators from two state agencies in August scrutinized a new behavioral health residential treatment facility for children, after it was cited twice for failing to report that a patient stabbed himself and for not following state clinical care regulations. 

It isn’t known if the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) or the Department of Human Services (DHS) will take further action against Cambia Hills of East Bethel. The facility opened in March as a new type of treatment option for children who often cannot get intensive mental health care in the state, forcing placement in facilities hundreds of miles away. 

Dave Hartford, chief operating officer of the 60-bed facility, told the Star Tribune that investigators were on site. “We are still just moving along working with DHS and MDH in terms of fixing things that are being identified that need improvement,” he said. Since then Hartford has voluntarily resigned his post. 

State officials are looking into safety concerns, self-harm, therapy, grievance procedures and other issues. There are also reports that some children have sent letters to news outlets asking for help. 

Cambia Hills treats children ages 7 to 17 with severe mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and neurological disabilities such as autism. Clients come to the facility if other options haven’t worked. Most patients go directly to the facility after being hospitalized, with many having a history of suicide attempts and self-injury. 

Because COVID-19 has made it difficult to hire staff, the facility is only about half full, serving about 35 patients. 

Mental health advocates have long pushed for this type of residential care. The city of Forest Lake rejected a proposal to build the facility on the site of a horse farm in 2018, forcing the parent company to move the project to East Bethel. 

But last month the state threatened to cut off state and federal funding for Cambia Hills after it discovered that a child had used a pair of scissors to stab himself, according to an investigative report released by the agency. The child obtained the scissors after taking part in a crafts group. 

Under MDH regulations, the facility was required to report the incident to the state within 24 hours. Cambia Hills also did not file a report on a child whose arm was discovered to be bruised from the elbow to the wrist. 

In a letter to the facility, the MDH said that it had satisfactorily changed its policies on incident reporting, which means that it won’t lose funding. 

Last week, the DHS issued a correction order, requiring Cambia Hills to conduct weekly “clinical supervision” meetings, where the care teams discuss patients’ treatment plans. 


(Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune)