Sheppard Pratt Health System plans to expand services to more young people by acquiring the beds from Good Shepherd, a Baltimore County residential treatment facility for adolescents that was shuttered last year after two state agencies stopped sending children there, officials said Tuesday.
Services will be moved from Good Shepherd’s Halethorpe location to new space in Baltimore County that has not yet been identified, according to Sheppard Pratt, the state’s largest private provider of behavioral health services, which has a memorandum of understanding with the Sisters of Good Shepherd to purchase their 115 beds.
“The lack of access to residential treatment services for adolescents requiring such placements has been felt throughout central Maryland and beyond,” Dr. Harsh K. Trivedi, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt, said in a statement. “We believe that the restoration of some of this capacity will help to alleviate protracted stays in emergency rooms. This expansion of services will enable psychiatric hospitals to return these youth to the community more promptly.”
The Halethorpe facility’s program was closed last spring by its operators, and the 70-acre property listed for sale after several temporary moratoriums on placements imposed by the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Juvenile Services, responsible for about two-thirds of the youths treated there.
State health regulators had cited Good Shepherd in 2016 for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose after taking medicine stolen from a medical cart. The Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Quality had ordered corrective actions, but the operators decided to close the facility a year ago.
The facility was providing longer-term care, usually months, for youths with a history of behavioral health issues who needed more intensive psychological, psychiatric, clinical and health services. Good Shepherd also operated a school on the grounds. Such residential treatment facilities are typically for youths stepping down from a hospital stay where they were stabilized after an acute episode or stepping up from a group home that does not provide enough structure.
Sister Mary Carolyn McQuaid, treasurer for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America, acknowledged the memorandum of understanding but said she had no further comment.
Sheppard Pratt said it is pursuing a definitive purchase agreement, and once a new location is identified officials will pursue a certificate of need from state regulators.
Bonnie Katz, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Sheppard Pratt, said that in addition to the closure of the Baltimore County facility, residential treatment centers in Rockville and Cambridge shut down recently, amplifying the shortage of beds. The state also recently decided to stop sending children to out-of-state facilities.
Sheppard Pratt already operates two residential treatment centers serving 105 patients ages 12-21 in Baltimore and Frederick counties. Katz said it’s not clear if officials will continue to operate all 115 beds from Good Shepherd. It will depend on the space that the organization acquires.
Katz said that if the acquisition and regulatory approvals go smoothly, as well as staffing, Sheppard Pratt might be able to open its residential treatment facility and a related school in six to eight months.
“We have experience in this area,” Katz said. “At this point the issue is finding something that works for the service and a nice setting for the kids in terms of ability to have access to outdoor space. We want to help them progress and transition them back to the community with new skills and confidence.”