CONTRA COSTA: Fremont Hospital to Assume Some Walnut Creek Services
Behavioral Healthcare Corp. announced yesterday that Fremont Hospital will offer some mental health services for children previously offered at the soon-to-close Walnut Creek Hospital, the Contra Costa Times reports. Walnut Creek administrators announced this week that, due to the sale of its physical plant to John Muir-Mt. Diablo Health System, the hospital would no longer admit new patients and would close its doors by Feb. 29. Some local families are asking John Muir to pick up some of the slack, especially since Walnut Creek's closing left only one facility in Vallejo that would offer overnight psychiatric care for children. Chet Watson, president of NAMI-Contra Costa, an advocacy group for families dealing with mental illness, said, "When our kids become ill, we will have to take them out of the county and that is not right. I'd like to see John Muir step up to the plate. They bought the place out. They should build a place to replace it. It's a shame and an outrage if they don't do that." Elizabeth Stallings, chief operating officer for John Muir's psychiatric care medical pavilion, said that 24 of the pavilion's 73 beds will be converted for use by adolescents. Beds for younger children were not added because their "needs are so erratic." She explained, "Sometimes you have a lot. Sometimes you have none. We're converting a third of our beds to the group that needs it most." Addressing some families' concerns, Stallings said, "There is no crisis going on. Vallejo is only 20 minutes from this facility and they have an outstanding child program" (McMillian, 2/4). Spokesperson Patty Hefner said that John Muir has no plans yet for the Walnut Creek facility, but added, "It gives us greater flexibility in our ability to work with the campus in the future." In the meantime, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair Donna Gerber has invited Walnut Creek and John Muir CEOs to discuss the closing. Although the Fremont facility would absorb some of Walnut Creek's clients and increase its child and adolescent unit from 10 to 20 beds, she said, "I think that perhaps they didn't realize that simply selling their facility to John Muir and taking their dollars and walking away would cause the kind of reaction it has" (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.