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NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County Marks Successful Transformation of Its Behavioral Health Services with End of Department of Justice Oversight

Hospital Now Considered a “Model” Program That Meets High Standards of Quality Care and Treatment of Seriously Mentally Ill

Jan 17, 2017

Brooklyn, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County has marked the successful transformation of its behavioral health services into a high-quality, patient-centered psychiatric program that is dramatically changing the experience of the 11,000 New Yorkers it serves every year. A judge of the Eastern District of New York today agreed to end oversight of the hospital’s behavioral health program by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which reported that the hospital’s performance has exceeded their expectations.

DOJ now considers the services to be a true model of how to care for those with serious mental illness. The court-ordered monitoring by DOJ was the result of a 2010 settlement agreement that resolved both a federal investigation into deficiencies in the care provided in the hospital’s psychiatric emergency department and inpatient units and a lawsuit brought against the hospital by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Mental Hygiene Legal Services.

“We are pleased to inform the Court that … the Behavioral Health Service has achieved and maintained substantial compliance…,” wrote United States Attorney Robert L. Capers in his letter to the Court, recommending that the case be closed. “In many respects, the Behavioral Health Service has surpassed the requirements of the Consent Judgment and become a model acute care psychiatric facility.”

“This validation marks an important milestone for NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County. The accolades from DOJ are a testament to the complete cultural transformation that has occurred within the hospital’s psychiatric unit,” said Stanley Brezenoff, NYC Health + Hospitals Interim President and CEO. “I congratulate the health care professionals who have worked diligently to achieve this transformation and thank them for their ingenuity and dedication to excellent patient outcomes.”

“We have turned the page and put in place a culture of patient-centered care and an evidence-based program that fundamentally overhauled the way we provide care to the mentally ill, including the most serious cases. Today, patients receiving psychiatric services get timely, safe, and personalized care to help meet their health goals and set a path toward recovery,” said the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, Ernest Baptiste.

“Our staff are extremely well trained, compassionate, and confident in dealing with the most complex cases,” said Dr. Renuka Ananthamoorthy, chief of behavioral health services at NYC Health+ Hospitals/Kings County. “And our recovery-oriented, comprehensive approach to care has led to positive outcomes for our patients, their families, and the community.”

Major reforms established and maintained over the years:

  • Dramatically transformed the physical environment with a $153 million, 300,000-square-foot behavioral health center;
  • Established a new reform-minded leadership team that has built staff expertise and accountability;
  • Adopted a patient-centered, customized treatment planning process;
  • Radically changed the psychiatric emergency room experience, reduced overcrowding and wait times;
  • Improved safety and security for patients and staff with new ways to better identify and curtail risk of violent behavior;
  • Strengthened complementary medical care for patients with behavioral health issues;
  • Involved patients and their families more directly in the design of care; and
  • Instituted a model that assists and supports patients as they transition home.

Specific innovative models of care that have received special recognition:

  • Behavioral Health Associates Replaced Hospital Police – Reduced reliance on uniformed hospital police to manage patients in crisis; instituted special training in crisis intervention and security for staff who now participate in crisis management.
  • Peer Counselors – Instituted a newly trained team of full-time staff who have been mental health patients themselves and now serve as patient navigators, mentors, and patient advocates.
  • Staff Therapy Room – Built a special room where staff can go to decompress from the high-stress work of caring for the most complex, mentally ill patients. Activities include yoga, meditation, and more.

“In the beginning, when my daughter got out of the hospital, I had to deal with something that I’ve never dealt with before,” said Jennifer, the mother of an adult patient. “During my first [support group] meeting, I realized this is where I belong. It’s a wonderful place for me to find some peace, and hope, and support, for both my daughter and me.”

“Mental illness is scary, especially going through it for the first time, not understanding what’s going on with you,” said Shanaka, a patient. “It helps to have a safe haven, a sacred place where you can go, where you know it’s going to be okay. Here, I feel free, I feel like myself, and I feel like for the first time I know myself.”

Statements of Support from Elected Officials

Statement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams:
“A strong psychiatric program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County is an important component of a borough that advances safe places for us to raise healthy children and families. Prioritizing the safety and dignity of patients, while providing first-rate treatment that meets each case’s unique needs, is critical to meeting the challenges that mental illness can inflict.”

Statement from Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke:
“Every person who visits the hospital deserves access to comprehensive, high-quality health care provided in a manner that honors their dignity as a human being. I want to commend NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County for cooperating with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the United States Department of Justice to eliminate problems that had existed in its psychiatric unit and provide all patients with the best possible quality of care.”

Statement from State Senator Jesse Hamilton:
“Building a stronger health care system for Brooklyn depends on the dedication and professionalism of clinicians and staff committed to delivering high quality care. Today, the Department of Justice confirms the NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County Behavioral Health Service has met an exacting standard. Thanks to all the professionals across Kings County who contributed to Kings County’s success and who will continue to ensure that our health care system delivers for our neighborhoods.”

Statement from State Assembly Member Diana C. Richardson:
“Mental health is a critical component to well-being, and with NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County’s transformation of its behavioral health services into a high-quality, patient-centered psychiatric program , we can continue to meet the many challenges effectuated by mental illness in the community.”

Statement from Council Member Mathieu Eugene:
“I wish to commend the staff at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County Behavioral Health Service for successfully implementing this innovative model for psychiatric medical treatment. This program has demonstrated a new approach to behavioral health that has greatly improved the way we are able to care for patients suffering from mental illness. I am truly honored to support our medical professionals who have been instrumental in providing key healthcare resources to those who need them most.”

Statement from Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.:
“As someone who has been at the forefront of the fight for access to mental health services within our city, the completion of the DOJ’s review is a win for Brooklyn. This transformation allows residents access to a state-of-the art facility and will alleviate the stigma associated with mental health issues. My office looks forward to a continued partnership with the NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County and thank them for all their hard work.”

Statement from Council Member Andrew Cohen:
“I commend the staff and administrators at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County on making this important transition to a high-quality psychiatric center, and now serving over 11,000 New Yorkers annually. Patients are now benefiting from comprehensive and innovative patient-centric care. Not only has the hospital exceeded the Justice Department’s expectations, it has become a model for mental health care.”


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