Regional News in Review - May 2016

Fairview, UCare to combine

Fairview Health Services and UCare announced April 5 that they have signed a letter of intent to combine their provider and payer expertise with a commitment to provide innovative, fully integrated health care for Minnesotans. The two organizations hope to finalize details of the transaction and secure regulatory approvals by mid-summer 2016.

Upon execution of an agreement, UCare will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fairview. Jim Eppel will remain as UCare president and CEO. UCare and PreferredOne, which came under Fairview’s sole ownership in January, will form Fairview’s health plan division. The two payers, which are the fourth and fifth largest in Minnesota, offer complementary portfolios of services to two different sets of clients.

“This proposed combination mirrors a growing national trend of payer/provider partnerships and has the potential to transform how health care is delivered and financed in Minnesota,” said David Murphy,

Fairview’s interim CEO. “Deploying the synergies and shared visions of these two trusted Minnesota health care organizations will enable us to pilot innovative ways to improve patient outcomes, simplify the health care experience and reduce the cost of care.”

“I share in David’s excitement about joining these two health care leaders,” said Eppel. “Combining forces with Fairview and its extensive, high-quality provider network will enable us to pave the way for a truly value-based and integrated system which better serves Minnesotans now and into the future.”

Specific details of the agreement are being worked out. Overall workforce reductions are not anticipated as a result of the transaction. (Source: Fairview)

 

 

Mental health task force set

Gov. Mark Dayton has announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health to advise state leaders on improvements to Minnesota’s mental health systems. Dayton has directed the task

force to develop comprehensive recommendations to design, implement, and sustain a continuum of mental health services throughout Minnesota – comprehensive planning that has been missing from past efforts to bolster the state’s mental health system.

“Too many Minnesotans are going far too long without accessing the mental health care they need,” said Dayton. “Those denials damage their overall health, their job opportunities, and their access to safe, affordable housing. This task force will provide the expertise and leadership necessary to address these serious challenges statewide. I look forward to receiving and acting upon their recommendations.”

More than 200,000 adults and 75,000 children in Minnesota live with mental illness. People wait an average of 10 years between the onset of symptoms and before seeking out treatment. The task force will include Minnesotans who have experienced mental illness – either themselves or as a family member – state and local government officials, mental health and other health care providers, as well as judicial and law enforcement officials. It will have ex office members from the legislature and state agencies. Together they will work to identify gaps in the state’s mental health system and propose policy solutions that can help address those challenges across Minnesota.

“This is a critical moment for our mental health system in Minnesota,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “We have made advancements in the last year, but we need to continue moving forward on that commitment. I thank the governor for his leadership to identify solutions that will address the gaps that exist in our mental health system, and help to ensure that all Minnesotans can access the treatment, services and supports they need.”

The task force will recommend a comprehensive continuum of care for Minnesotans with mental illness, including new policies, legislative changes, and funding, as well as defining the roles of the various actors within Minnesota’s mental health system, including the state, counties, hospitals, community mental health service providers and others. Over the last five years, state leaders have invested more than $56 million in mental health initiatives, including $46 million for mental health crisis services, housing for adults with mental illness, funding to increase capacity at mental health facilities across the state, and initiatives to improve children’s mental health.

The Task Force on Mental Health will report back to the governor, legislature, and the public by the end of November 2016, ahead of the 2017-2018 fiscal year budgeting process. Members will be appointed by the governor. See the executive order setting u the task force here. (Source: DHS)

 

 

Nursing home cited for neglect

A northwestern Minnesota nursing home, with a history of patient neglect cases, was cited for neglect in the death of a resident with a severe cognitive disability. The man died after nurses gave him 10 times his prescribed dose of morphine. His name was not disclosed. The fatality occurred at the Mahnomen Health Center in Mahnomen, a community in northern Minnesota. State health officials issued a report on the man’s death in April, following an investigation.

“The facility failed to have adequate policies in place to ensure medications were transcribed accurately and then administered correctly,” stated a report from the Minnesota Department of Health. The patient was suffering from chronic kidney disease and had been transferred to hospice care at Mahnomen Health Center the day before the medication error occurred. Upon arrival, his physician added an order of morphine sulfate delivered hourly via syringe.

However, the order was incorrectly transcribed onto the patient’s record, causing the patient to receive a dose 10 times larger than the amount prescribed. A nurse at the facility told investigators that he had questioned another nurse about the size of the dosage, but he was told it was correct. The error was detected about 15 minutes after the dose was given.

Employees notified the patient’s family and they asked staff members to administer a drug, Narcan, to block the effects of the morphine. The patient’s breathing had decreased to two breaths per minute.

The family requested more Narcan, but the patient died before staff members could return from the hospital with the drug.

The resident’s primary physician said a large dose of morphine would have contributed to the death, according to the state report.

This is not the first investigation of Mahnomen Health Center by the state in the past five years. A staff member stole narcotic pain medications from facility residents a couple of years ago. A choking death led to another neglect finding and a lawsuit against the center in 2011. More recently it was found that the center failed to report the injury of another residents, who suffered two hand lacerations that required seven stitches. A nursing assistant last August found a patient in her room with bleeding from her fingers. The patient was sent to the hospital’s emergency department but the incident was not immediately reported to the state. (Source: Star Tribune, Valley News)

 

 

New developer sought in Fergus Falls

The city of Fergus Falls is seeking a developer, investor, or visionary group to purchase the 100-yearold Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center, known as the Kirkbride Facility. Built in 1888, the historic landmark is the most complete intact example of “Kirkbride-inspired” architecture in the United States, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The treatment center closed several years ago. The city, historic preservationists and disability community members have tried since that time to find a developer and new uses for the castle-like facility and the rest of the campus. National, state and regional historic groups have tracked the preservation effort closely. Past development plans have failed and there are worries that the historic structure could be demolished.

The architecturally-significant property contains more than 500,000 square feet of existing facilities, and rests on 19 acres of land within the city limits of Fergus Falls. It is currently available for redevelopment, with millions of dollars of incentives available. Located at the hub of higher education for the region, the solid structure and sprawling layout of this property make it a prime candidate for education, health services, housing, “green” industry or technology companies. “The city of Fergus Falls has an architectural gem on their hands, and the right group could really take it and make it shine,” said Dan Peterson, a senior associate with Colliers International/Minneapolis-St. Paul. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repurpose a historic facility in great condition, and bring it into the future so it leads to economic activity for years to come.” (Source: Colliers)

 

 

Large autism study begins

The University of Minnesota joined with 19 other institutions in April to launch the largest autism research study in U.S. history. Its centerpiece is an online registry of 50,000 people and their families, to uncover how genetic and environmental differences influence the course of the developmental disability.

People diagnosed with autism and their parents can register online, type in personal and medical information, and receive kits and instructions for sending in saliva samples by mail. Participants will help researcher gather an unprecedented amount of data, at relatively minimal expense, that points to genetic patterns in the disorder.

“There are approximately 50 genes that have been identified that probably play a role in autism,” said Dr. Suma Jacob, a U of M professor in pediatrics and psychiatry leading the local study, “but there are 300 to 500 or more that may be involved, and we need large numbers of families to be able to find that information.”

Autism afflicts an estimated one in 68 children, and is often diagnosed by age 4, when communication, behavioral and cognitive deficits emerge, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is found more frequently in boys than in girls. In the broad national context of autism there are many mysteries, including the prevalence of autism in children in Minnesota’s growing Somali immigrant community. Part of the university’s involvement is helping the study attract a diverse population. Jacob said he anticipates participation from throughout the Midwest.

Overall, the university will recruit as many as 2,400 people with autism, along with their parents, over the next three years to take part in the study. The new study, known by the acronym SPARK and funded entirely by the Simon Foundation, will seek genetic and other explanations for these kinds of demographic variations.

More information about the study can be obtained by contacting SPARK-MN@umn.edu or 612-624-0116. Participants receive $50 gift cards, along with access to information about the latest research and treatment developments. (Source: Star Tribune)