The Bulletin Board

Organizations call on Executive Council to reconsider Wellpath contract for Hampstead Hospital

By: - May 3, 2022 1:21 pm
Chris Sununu and Lori Shibinette

Chris Sununu and Lori Shibinette have said a lengthy delay on the Wellpath contract would jeopardize the state’s plans to finalize its purchase of Hampstead Hospital by June. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Five organizations focused on protecting children and their access to mental health treatment have called on executive councilors to seriously reconsider the state’s proposed contract with Wellpath Recovery Solutions to provide psychiatric care to children at Hampstead Hospital. 

They cited the company’s primary focus on providing health care to adults in prison and the numerous allegations of abuse and neglect in a letter Tuesday to councilors, Gov. Chris Sununu, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

The Executive Council voted, 5-0, to table the contract at its meeting last month, saying they wanted more time to review it. Councilors could take up the $52 million, two-year contract, which was not put out to bid, at their meeting Wednesday.

Shibinette and Sununu have said a lengthy delay would jeopardize the state’s plans to finalize its purchase of Hampstead Hospital by June, and its ability to provide more inpatient access to children waiting days and weeks for a hospital bed.

The agencies behind the letter, the Disability Rights Center-NH, New Futures, NAMI New Hampshire, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, and Waypoint of New Hampshire, said they too share concerns about long waits for care, but they don’t see Wellpath as the solution. They said they could find no evidence the company had operated any inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities serving children.

The company declined to respond last week when asked by the Bulletin if it had cared for children in a noncorrectional setting. A spokeswoman directed the Bulletin to look at its other facilities for “a comparable facility to Hampstead Hospital.” None of the facilities listed on the company’s website provided mental health care for children in noncorrectional hospital settings.

“We question whether Wellpath Recovery Solutions is capable of providing high-quality therapeutic services that fully address the needs of children who require inpatient psychiatric care,” the letter said. 

The organizations pointed to two documents critical of care provided by Wellpath Recovery Solutions and one of its parent companies, Correct Care Solutions. 

In a February report, the Disability Law Center of Massachusetts called on Wellpath to stop using drugs as “chemical restraints” for patients under its care at Bridgewater State Hospital correctional facility. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections disputed the center’s findings.

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice released results of its investigation into prisoner care at a California jail that found that while Wellpath had improved some services, the company was still failing to provide prisoners “constitutionally adequate” care. 

The letter writers asked the council to “fully consider the treatment and safety needs of children with mental illness” and reach out to other potential mental health providers with experience treating children. 

Health and Human Services spokesman Jake Leon said in an email Monday that the department had spoken with “a number” of other providers who have treated children. He did not respond when asked which ones. 

Leon said the state’s proposed contract with Wellpath Recovery Solutions will keep state workers in charge of management positions, such as chief executive officer and chief operating officer, as well as compliance officer, general counsel, and contract manager. Those employees will be on site and able to supervise the clinical care provided by Wellpath, he said.

In their letter, the agencies listed on-site supervision as one of five measures the state should take if it does move forward with Wellpath Recovery Solutions. The others included authorizing the Office of the Child Advocate to monitor Hampstead Hospital’s case management, medical records, and incident report in “real-time”; creating an ombudsman within the Office of the Child Advocate to review those records and conduct on-site monitoring; a clear procedure for Health and Human Services to receive, investigate, and remedy patient complaints; and quarterly public reports summarizing incidents related to medical and psychiatric care and use of restraints and seclusion.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.