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Washington psychiatric hospital loses Medicare certification, $53M in federal funding

By by Alia Paavola, Becker's Hospital Review

(Becker's Hospital Review) - Western State Hospital, a 147-year-old psychiatric hospital in Lakewood, Washington, will lose its Medicare certification and $53 million in annual federal funds July 9 after years of struggling to maintain its status. Here's what you need to know.

The loss of federal funds comes two years after the state's largest psychiatric hospital implemented a correction plan to improve safety and quality of care to meet federal standards.

"Despite improvements, Western had not achieved substantial compliance," according to the Medicare termination notice.

The termination letter did not detail issues of noncompliance; however, the notice reveals Western State had issues with its nursing services, physical environment, governing body and quality assessments and performance improvement initiatives.

The psychiatric hospital has struggled for years to prevent assaults on staff, reduce patient escapes, shorten wait times, upgrade facilities and mitigate staffing shortages. The state of Washington poured millions of dollars into the psychiatric hospital to implement improvements, but the hospital was unable to remedy Western State’s issues.

Beginning July 9, the state of Washington will be obligated to pay the $53 million a year formerly funded by the federal government, about 19 percent of the hospital's budget.

Medical Clearance of Psych Patients in the ED

Psychiatric complaints prompt an estimated 4.9% to 6.3% of all emergency department (ED) visits in the United States. This number is increasing for various reasons, including a shortage of psychiatrists, closure of state mental hospitals, and reduced funding for community mental health care.

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