What does the new contract with Universal Health Services mean?
The new contract means Universal Health Services (UHS) will become a provider of acute, inpatient mental health care services for the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division. Over the next two years, UHS will construct and operate a new, freestanding 120-bed inpatient mental health facility to serve the inpatient behavioral health needs of adolescents, adults and older adults in Milwaukee County. This state-of-the-art acute, inpatient mental health facility will offer a more innovative environment of care designed to support the supervision, treatment and safety of those served. The UHS facility will be an independent hospital serving as the primary receiving facility for all of the patients treated at the Behavioral Health Division (BHD) today, as well as the community.
Why did the Mental Health Board make this decision?
The County has provided inpatient mental health services to our residents for more than 100 years. Best practices and laws have changed over the years. Ten years ago, Milwaukee County launched the Mental Health Redesign with advocates, community leaders and leaders in mental health. These reforms took the new laws into account and began to incorporate best practices like trauma-informed care, individualized treatment plans, connecting people with providers in the community and quality improvement. This meant BHD would move away from inpatient and institutional care to create a community-based system that meets more people where they are at before they are in crisis or need to be hospitalized. Partnering with UHS as the County’s primary provider of acute, inpatient behavioral health services will increase the number of acute beds available in the County and make it possible for BHD to focus on continued reforms of our system, increasing access and improving the quality of care available in Milwaukee County.
Why Universal Health Services?
UHS has experience helping patients with severe and challenging behavioral health conditions recover. They work with populations like ours and have great outcomes and excellent patient satisfaction scores. In 2015, the Mental Health Board launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify a provider to build a new hospital and provide acute, inpatient mental health care for the patients BHD serves in the hospital. The Mental Health Board’s Joint Task Force led this effort. The task force was a committee comprised of board members, advocates, individuals with lived experience and mental health experts. After more than two years of comprehensive due diligence, the task force recommended the board approve UHS as our provider. The new hospital will be open to everyone in need of behavioral health services, further reducing stigma for the individuals BHD serves.
Will this change take place immediately?
No, the transition will take about two years. BHD will continue serving patients at the Mental Health Complex until 2021. There will be no disruption in PCS services; a transition will take place over time.
Will there be changes to my job?
We don’t expect any changes in the near future. The contract with UHS was just approved by the Mental Health Board, which means Milwaukee County and the Behavioral Health Division will begin talking with UHS about staffing. There is a lot we don’t know today. However, here are a few things we do know:
- The Mental Health Complex needs to remain staffed for two years; during this time, we will continue caring for patients who need acute care in our hospital. There are incentives to stay at BHD and incentives for candidates to join our team throughout our transition.
- UHS’s hospital is expected to have 120 beds and UHS will need employees with experience in behavioral health to work with patients once the new facility opens.
- In addition, BHD has a lot of exciting work ahead as we expand our efforts to ensure everyone who needs behavioral health care in Milwaukee County gets connected with the care they need and is treated with dignity, regardless of their situation.
What incentives will be available?
Retention and severance packages will be offered. We will announce the details of our retention plan in early 2019. The plan outlines specific retention periods throughout 2019 and until BHD’s acute, inpatient care fully transitions to the new hospital - likely towards the end of 2021. We hope these retention payments will encourage our staff to stay with us throughout this transition. We will also announce a severance plan, separate from the retention plan, as another way to encourage employees to continue to provide service to our community at BHD throughout this transition. Details of the severance agreement will be made available shortly after contract negotiations with a new partner have been completed - likely June 2019.
Can you tell me which positions will be affected by this decision?
We don’t have that list yet. Positions eligible for severance and retention will be more clearly defined in the coming months. As we learn more, we’ll keep you informed through your department leadership.
Will my benefits change?
The contract with UHS was just approved by the Mental Health Board, which means Milwaukee County and the Behavioral Health Division will begin talking with UHS about what benefits will look like for those who are employed by UHS.
How will this affect my retirement plan?
Vested pension benefits will not be lost as a result of the transition to UHS. Employees are encouraged to call Retirement Plan Services (RPS) to begin conversations if they are considering retirement at (414) 278-4207. Employees may also visit the RPS page at Retirement Plan Services for additional resources .
How will this impact our patients, residents, children and communities?
This will be good for everyone as we work to improve the behavioral health care system in Milwaukee County. The partnership with UHS will offer expanded access to services and expertise, resulting in greater access to care and better outcomes. Individuals and families who come to the Mental Health Complex today for inpatient care will go to the new Universal Health Services facility when it opens. We will make information available when we have it.
What will this change mean for the Behavioral Health Division?
We will strengthen programs that are successful, work closely with our providers to ensure quality care is available, track and measure quality and outcomes and more.
How will I receive more information?
We are committed to providing you with timely updates through a variety of mediums. We will have regular updates in our employee newsletter. You’ll receive regular updates via email. Employees are also encouraged to attend monthly Town Halls. We will also post updates on our website: county.milwaukee.gov/acutehospital. Here you can find answers to more frequently asked questions, information about our new provider and can event submit questions and ideas.
What should I do if media approach me for a comment?
While we want to be responsive to media, we also need to handle all media requests carefully. Please do not speak with the media. According to our media policy, all requests for interviews related to this should be immediately forwarded to Ann Knabe at (414) 635-7004 or Kimberly Kane at (414) 635-7006.