AUGUSTA — It doesn’t have any bearing on whether the state will recover $20 million in lost federal funding, but state health officials on Monday welcomed news that the troubled Riverview Psychiatric Center had received accreditation from a key national group.
The Joint Commission, a nonprofit accrediting organization and standard-bearer recognized throughout the country for its assessment of health care providers, gave Augusta’s Riverview it’s “Gold Seal of Approval” for safety and quality of care.
Maine is currently appealing a recent decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also known as CMS, that made Riverview ineligible for about $20 million in federal funding, leaving a hole the state is struggling to fill. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has argued that patient safety concerns raised by the federal government were not serious enough to warrant cutting Riverview from the program.
The Joint Commission’s rating will not restore the federal funding, but a spokeswoman for Maine Health Management Coalition, a group that advocates for transparency and public reporting in the health care industry, said the gold seal bolsters the administration’s argument that Riverview is on a path toward improvement.
“It shows they are trying to make improvements,” said Nancy Morris. “To get the accreditation, they had to make sure certain procedures were in place, and prove they were, so it’s a good thing.”
The accreditation report was dated Feb. 20, and was based on an unannounced on-site inspection in November. Joint Commission accreditation is required by a court-ordered consent decree from 2004, which governs how the state handles psychiatric patients. The Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor is also accredited through the Joint Commission.
“With Joint Commission accreditation, we are making a significant investment in quality on a day-to-day basis throughout our hospitals,’’ said Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew in a news release. “I am proud of the efforts of staff at both state psychiatric hospitals for their commitment to moving their performance to the next level and for their efforts to perpetuate a culture of excellence that focuses on continuous improvement.”
In the release, DHHS said the standards for achieving Joint Commission accreditation are similar to those required by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, CMS has said it will need to conduct its own recertification survey before Riverview can once again be eligible for federal Medicaid dollars, said department spokesman John Martins.
Riverview ranked about average on meeting most national and state goals measured by the Joint Commission. It received the highest marks possible for not having used physical restraints on any elderly patients.
However, Riverview was marked down for the number of patients released into the community with two or more antipsychotic prescriptions. The drugs are used to treat psychosis, which the commission said “markedly interferes with a person’s capacity to meet life’s everyday demands.”
Riverview’s ranking was also reduced for the number of hours patients were kept in seclusion, averaging 2.2 hours for every 1,000 hours of patient care; The average for other accredited institutions is just 0.3 hours.