Kent Community Takes Over Substance Abuse Treatment Program

June 4, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Residential substance abuse treatment will go on uninterrupted at Spectrum Health’s Kent Community Campus, now that the health system has taken over the service from its long-time provider, Longford Health Services.

Kent Community assumed operations of the residential substance abuse unit as of Dec. 1, ending Longford’s administration of the 69-bed Longford CareUnit following a leasing dispute. Spectrum has retained many of the staff from Longford and new counseling services through an outside staffing agency, Kent Community’s President and CEO Lori Portfleet said.

“It’s our program and we’re committed to it and we will continue to serve as we have,” Portfleet said. “It will be the same program, the same place, the same intensity, the same people to a large extent.”

Versions from both sides on what led to the separation differ.

Longford’s Gary Seech says the two were still negotiating on a lease agreement and trying to reconcile differences over what Longford contends was a “major” miscalculation on the part of Spectrum that resulted in a significant cost increase. He believes they could have resolved the issue if Kent Community hadn’t pulled the plug.

Subsequent legal efforts by Longford to overturn Kent Community’s decision have so far proven unsuccessful.

“We’re confused, we’re saddened and we’re bewildered,” said Seech, the administrator of Longford CareUnit prior to its closure and eviction from Kent Community. “We have provided a seamless program that works for the community.

“The community’s needs in this decision are not being recognized,” he said.

Portfleet says negotiations were not ongoing and that Kent Community was forced to cut ties with Longford after the company failed to comply with a June 30 deadline to sign a proposed lease.

Either way, the net result is that Longford is out and Kent Community is now administering the program.

Kent Community notified Longford in August that it had until Nov. 30 to move out. Kent Community needed to make a decision as it works to complete an ongoing $6 million renovation project at the campus, Portfleet said.

“We had a decision to make,” Portfleet said. “We’ve moved on and moved forward.”

The separation came after Longford went through the process of seeking and obtaining approval for a state Certificate of Need to earn designation as a separate hospital entity within the Kent Community Campus. Completing the lease agreement would have been a final step in that process, which helped Kent Community to earn state status as a long-term acute-care hospital and qualify for Medicare payments.

Longford, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Wexford Health Services, previously never had a lease with Kent Community and operated at the campus under a contractual arrangement that spelled out terms of the services it provided for the residential substance abuse program. The situation changed when Longford sought the “hospital within a hospital” status, which required the company to secure a formal lease for the space it used at Kent Community in order to obtain a state operating license.

Under the operating contract, Longford provided counseling, intake and some administrative services for the unit. Kent Community provided the space, nursing, dietary, laundry, housekeeping, medical records and billing and accounting services, plus medical staff credentialing.

Now that it’s in control of the program, Kent Community plans to relocate it to another renovated portion of the facility, Portfleet said.

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