Kings County Hospital Gets a Clean Bill of Health

Article from Kings County Politics

A federal judge of the Eastern District of New York yesterday agreed to end the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight of Kings County Hospital’s behavioral health program after the agency reported that the hospital’s performance has exceeded their expectations.

The court-ordered DOJ monitoring 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.”

The 639-bed public teaching hospital at 451 Clarkson Avenue is part of the NYC Health + Hospitals agency and serves Central Brooklyn, East New York-New Lots, and Flatbush. The hosiptal’s psychiatric program serves about 11,000 New Yorkers, and the hospital is also one of the borough’s largest employers.

“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 Kings County Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Ernest Baptiste.

Among the major reforms established and maintained over the years include:

  • 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 include:

  • 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.

City, state and federal lawmakers, who either represent the location of the hospital and/or the catchment area for patients, also hailed the court’s decision.

Congresswoman Yvette 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,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.

State Senator Jesse Hamilton said the DOJ’s report confirmed that the hospital’s Behavioral Health Service has met an exacting standard.

“Building a stronger health care system for Brooklyn depends on the dedication and professionalism of clinicians and staff committed to delivering high quality care. 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,” said Hamilton.

City Council Member Mathieu Eugene

City Council Member Mathieu Eugene commended 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,” said Eugene.

City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr, called 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/KingsCounty and thank them for all their hard work,” said Cornegy.

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