Pine Rest moves into new mode

March 15, 2009
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Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is overseeing behavioral health services at Mercy Health Partners’ Hackley Campus in Muskegon in what may be just the first expansion of the Cutlerville nonprofit’s expertise into managing other programs.

“What we’re finding is that there are a number of organizations like Mercy Health Partners who are coming to Pine Rest … and saying, ‘Come alongside and consult, manage or, in some way, partner,’” said Scott Wagner, Pine Rest vice president of behavioral health solutions. “There’s a number of organizations that we’re in beginning stages or middle-of-the road stages (of negotiations).”

Wagner said Pine Rest has been approached by health care organizations, particularly acute care hospitals like MHP, which have behavioral health units under their roofs but do not carry expertise in mental health issues on their staffs. He said they are interested in working with Pine Rest to oversee their programs so that behavioral health services can remain in their communities.

Last September, Pine Rest replaced Horizon Health, a Texas company that provided contract management for behavioral health services nationwide, at the Hackley Campus, Wagner said. Even before the talks of merger between Hackley Hospital and Mercy General Health Partners began in 2007, Hackley officials were considering changing management organizations for the 27-bed inpatient unit, he said.

“I realized we didn’t to have the internal expertise to manage the unit to its fullest,” said MHP Chief Nursing Officer Kim Maguire.

“So far, we’ve been very happy. We made it very clear to them that we wanted to keep services here in Muskegon and didn’t want to send people to Grand Rapids, Lansing or Kalamazoo; we wanted to keep them here, local. They agreed with that.”

Pine Rest said it has retained inpatient behavioral services staff at Hackley and has hired Dr. Katherine Jawor as medical director there. Hackley’s behavioral health services include inpatient and partial hospitalization for adults, as well as one outpatient office in Muskegon.

Now attention is turning to those outpatient services, Maguire said. Pine Rest operates outpatient clinics in Grand Haven and Muskegon, while Hackley Life Counseling also is in Muskegon with an emphasis on addictions treatment. Maguire and Wagner said the discussions have ranged from an outright merger to simply coordination, and no decision has been made.

Wagner noted that Pine Rest has acquired many of its 22 outpatient clinics in Michigan and Iowa in that manner. Other issues are under consideration as well, Maguire said.

“We’ve begun to work on things like better accessing the system,” she said. “There is Community Mental Health in Muskegon County, and part of the relationship going forward is to build and maintain a positive relationship with Muskegon CHM.”

She said MHP is not alone in seeking help with inpatient behavioral health.

“Behavior health is one of those areas where you really need somebody with expertise in it,” Maguire added. “My understanding is that a lot of little units based in hospitals struggle for the same reason we struggled.”

Maguire said while it was difficult to recruit psychiatrists, Pine Rest’s century-long reputation in the field is a benefit.

“They would probably gravitate toward Pine Rest anyway, because they understand the market.”

Maguire said concerns in the community that Pine Rest would siphon patients to its own inpatient unit south of Grand Rapids are unfounded, pointing out that the organization was already operating in Muskegon.

“They’re here. They’re visible. They want to be involved. With a national company, you don’t always get that,” Maguire said.

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