Officials with Tennessee treatment centers for troubled or abused children say they are pulling together to care for dozens of children whose treatment plans have been affected by the impending closure of Cumberland Hall, an adolescent behavioral health facility.
"Any time a child has to abruptly move from a placement, it can be very scary for a child, and most of these children have experienced a lot of trauma already," said Amanda Tillman, East Tennessee program director for Memphis-based Youth Villages, a private facility that cares for troubled children through programs that include foster care, in-home counseling and residential treatment.
"I think our big concern is, 'How can we transition these children to the most appropriate and safe placement without causing more trauma?'" she said
In an unusually sudden move with little public explanation, Cumberland Hall's parent company notified employees last week that on Jan. 31 the facility would be shut down. The decision meant the layoff of 70 full-time employees and the relocation of 35 children in the facility's residential treatment program and acute care hospital for adolescents in crisis. Such crises include those who have experienced depression, defiant behaviors and sexual or physical abuse.
All will be placed with new facilities by Friday, said Jon Van Mol, spokesman for Cumberland Hall's parent company, Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., based in Franklin, Tenn.
ABOUT CUMBERLAND HALL
Cumberland Hall, an adolescent behavioral health facility in Chattanooga, opened in 1991 and was bought by parent company Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., in 2006. The 64-bed facility offered specialized therapeutic foster care placement; in-home counseling services for families; an acute treatment program for adolescents in crisis such as depression, defiant behaviors, learning difficulties and sexual or physical abuse; and a residential treatment program for children with emotional difficulties.
Cumberland Hall's services also include a therapeutic foster care program and in-home counseling services for families, but Mr. Van Mol could not provide the number of children in those programs.
Having less than two weeks to figure out plans for dozens of children under state custody who were receiving care at Cumberland is an unusually tight deadline, said Rob Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Children's Services, or DCS.
"Typically if one of (the private facilities with which DCS contracts) decides to go out of business, we hope to get a month's notice," he said.
The department already has been able to find new placements for its 12 children in Cumberland's residential treatment program. Two dozen DCS children in Cumberland's therapeutic foster care will not have to be moved from their families, but new affiliations with private facilities to monitor those placements have been made, he said.
FEW DETAILS AVAILABLE
The facility's owners aren't providing much explanation for the facility closing.
Officials at Psychiatric Solutions and Cumberland Hall in Chattanooga declined requests for an interview, but Mr. Mol wrote in a prepared statement, "A key factor in the decision was a lack of professional resources in the local community to assure the level of care these patients need and deserve."
Cumberland's employees who still are working until the facility's impending closure are ensuring safe placements for all children, Ms. Tillman of Youth Villages said.
Despite knowing they are about to lose their jobs, "they're still working so hard with the highest integrity to make sure those kids are taken care of," she said.
Stephanie Lynn, the daughter of an almost 20-year veteran employee of the facility, said she is heartbroken for her mother, who put her "heart and soul" into Cumberland Hall. Ms. Lynn, a U.S. postal worker in Hixson, said Cumberland employees, including her mom, had to agree not to speak to the news media.
"Mama is so torn up about it," she said.
Ms. Lynn said she was sad to hear that some Cumberland children had to be placed in residential treatment facilities outside Chattanooga.
"We have made the decision to discontinue operations at our Cumberland Hall facility in Chattanooga at the end of this month, and are working on discharge plans that will transfer patients to other facilities at an appropriate level of care for them.
"Certainly, we apologize for the inconvenience this causes our patients and their families, and we regret the necessity of this decision. A key factor in the decision was a lack of professional resources in the local community to assure the level of care these patients need and deserve.
"In addition to transitioning our patients, we will be providing severance packages to those employees who remain with us until closing, and also will provide assistance in helping them find other work."
- John Van Mol, spokesman for Cumberland Hall of Chattanooga, in a prepared e-mail statement
"You can't send those kids to Nashville because their parents don't have any way to go and see them. How do you do that to a family?" Ms. Lynn asked.
Cumberland Hall's immediate-past CEO, Brennan Francois, was only in that role at Cumberland for a few months before he left in September to take on the role of CEO at Parkridge Valley, a psychiatric hospital on Morris Hill Road.
Parkridge Valley's child and adolescent program has taken over care for at least seven of the Cumberland patients, he said.
"I had no idea it was going to happen," he said of Cumberland's closure. "We are fortunate to have such a qualified professional staff. They have made this transition ... very seamless, and they've kept the patients' interests at the forefront of it."
Parkridge Valley has made an emergency request for state approval to add 16 more acute care beds to its current census of 100 acute care and 24 residential beds to ensure the behavioral health needs in the community are met, he said.