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April 11, 2017

Bed closures pending as UMass explores new psych hospital

Grant Welker UMass Memorial Health Care has proposed a new psychiatric hospital near its university campus, above.

As plans to close psychiatric beds at the University Campus hang in the balance, UMass Memorial is proposing a new, 120-bed psychiatric hospital in Worcester. 

The inpatient psychiatric hospital would cost $18 million to $20 million and open in early 2019, according to UMass Memorial spokesman Anthony Berry. The Worcester-based healthcare system filed plans last week to run the hospital in a partnership with an affiliate of US HealthVest, a company that runs psychiatric hospitals in Georgia, Illinois and Washington.

The hospital would be located in an office building at 100 Century Drive in the Burncoat neighborhood. UMass and US HealthVest filed plans last week for the hospital with the state Health Policy Commission, which must approve the proposal. UMass Memorial Health Ventures, Inc., a subsidiary of UMass Memorial Health Care, would own one-third of the new hospital. Team Behavioral Health, LLC, an affiliate of US HealthVest, would own the remainder.

The news follows UMass Memorial's proposal to eliminate 15 psychiatric beds in favor of more medical-surgical beds in the hospital's 8 East Unit. 

UMass Memorial has presented plans to treat patients in need of inpatient psychiatric services at other sites within the system, should the 8 East closures proceed, as well as at TaraVista Behavioral Health Center in Devens. The system has partnered with TaraVista to "earmark" beds for its patients at the new treatment center, according to Berry.

The plan has run into opposition by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, patient advocates and Worcester city officials, who say existing services are already at capacity. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is expected to make a ruling on the plan imminently. 

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