Head of state central hospital files legal action against whistleblower after his dismissal

Former director of Louisville State Psychiatric Hospital claims whistleblower status after saying she was fired without cause in a “backstage deal” that replaced her with an employee of a non-profit organization with more than $ 60 million in public contracts.

Josie Goodman, the former hospital director at Central State Hospital, filed a whistleblower complaint on Friday, saying her dismissal benefits the hospital’s recruiting agency, Centerstone Kentucky, and that officials at the hospital State have effectively sabotaged its efforts to resolve personnel issues in order to create a problem at the hospital. “so they can use it for an ulterior motive.”

Goodman also alleges that his dismissal was in retaliation for his institution’s use of a law that was passed despite the veto of Governor Matt Bevin.

The state’s actions threaten the quality of care central state provides to some of Kentucky’s most critically ill residents, according to the lawsuit.

“The mismanagement of Central State Hospital has unfortunately hurt not only Ms. Goodman, but also the patients who desperately need the care the hospital could provide through the courts’ use of Tim’s Law,” said Garry Adams, Goodman’s attorney, in an email. .

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Goodman has worked in the hospital for over 20 years, the last few years as a hospital manager, the hospital’s most senior position. Central State Hospital is one of four state-owned mental hospitals serving Louisville and surrounding areas.

The hospital serves patients with severe mental illness and concurrent substance abuse disorders and has seen an average of 55 patients each day this year.

The state replaced Goodman with Matt Mooring, an employee of Centerstone Kentucky, a nonprofit that has received more than $ 60 million in state contracts, including managing staff at Central State Hospital.

The lawsuit argues that Mooring’s new appointment essentially handed central state control to Centerstone.

The lawsuit also questions the need for the move, given that in 2016, the year Goodman was promoted from associate hospital director to hospital director, Central State won a Kentucky Quality Award. Hospital Association for Psychiatric Care.

As recently as 2018, the number of patients immobilized or isolated in the central state was systematically lower than national and national averages, according to the minutes of the meeting of the hospital’s board of directors obtained by the Courier. Newspaper.

The lawsuit names as defendants: Bevin; Adam Meier, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Family Services; Wendy Morris, State Department Commissioner of Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities; Dr Alan Brenzel, Medical Director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; and Georgianne McCain, staff assistant in the Department of Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities.

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Central State Hospital.  May 31, 2019

A message requesting comment from Bevin’s office was not returned.

In an email, Doug Hogan, spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that “although we have not had an opportunity to review the complaint, we are satisfied that there is no had neither reprisals nor discrimination “.

Mooring could not be reached for comment via a phone number listed on the Department of Behavioral Health’s website.

“Although Centerstone Kentucky (formerly Seven Counties Services) is not a party to this lawsuit, we do not agree with many of the misstatements in the complaint, which paint a misleading picture of the relationship between Centerstone Kentucky and the state, “Centerstone said in a statement Saturday. “For over 20 years, Centerstone Kentucky has had a personnel contract with Central State Hospital but has no oversight and does not operate the state-run facility.”

Tim’s Law may have played a role in the dismissal

In late January, Jefferson District Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke ordered a patient at Central State Hospital with a mental illness receive outpatient treatment under what’s known as “Tim’s Law,” enacted in 2017 to help people who might otherwise find themselves homeless, hospitalized or imprisoned.

This was the first time the law was used in Kentucky, and Burke thanked the hospital and its staff in a social media post for their role in implementing the law.

The public attention has infuriated some state officials, prompting staff at Brenzel and Morris to email central state employees asking for an explanation, according to Goodman’s lawsuit. Goodman responded on February 6, saying she was following the judge’s order.

Staff at the State Central Hospital were then asked to send weekly emails with a list of patients on the court’s docket, according to the lawsuit.

Goodman was fired on March 6 in a meeting she said would address her staffing issues, according to her lawsuit. No cause has been given for his dismissal, with his termination letter dated today stating that his hospital services were “no longer needed.”

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The Centerstone connection

On the same day, Morris announced that Mooring, a Centerstone Kentucky employee, would be Goodman’s replacement.

Centerstone is a non-profit agency that focuses on mental illness, addiction and developmental disabilities, and is engaged as the hospital staffing agency.

In a note to central state employees obtained by the Courier Journal, Morris wrote that Mooring would “oversee and be responsible for all clinical, administrative and shared hospital services.”

Morris touted Mooring’s work on a merger between Centerstone and Uspiritus, another Kentucky nonprofit that operated the Bellewood and Brooklawn centers for children with emotional and behavioral issues before the 2017 merger with Centerstone.

“Matt Mooring, a longtime employee of Uspiritus, has been independently selected and appointed by the state to be the director of Central State Hospital because of his successful experience leading residential programs in our community,” said Centerstone in its press release. “Nothing has changed in central state oversight since Mooring was hired and it continues to be a state-run hospital. “

Goodman’s attorney argues that Centerstone’s increased hospital presence “has the appearance of a behind-the-scenes deal that eschews taxpayer scrutiny and government procurement rules and laws.”

The day after Mooring’s appointment and Goodman’s firing was announced, Mooring was granted access to all of the hospital’s financial and budgetary information, the lawsuit said, and a Centerstone human resources employee took over the management of the hospital. human resources department of the hospital.

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Central State Hospital.  May 31, 2019

The Goodman lawsuit claims that having someone like Mooring, an employee of a “competing interested party” act as the hospital manager, is “an obvious conflict of interest” and that to appoint Mooring without putting tender the position or allow government employees to apply for the position “is suspicious and potentially illegal”.

Two of Kentucky’s other three state mental hospitals are operated under contracts, one with the University of Kentucky and one with Appalachian Regional Healthcare. Bluegrass, a Kentucky nonprofit, has contracts to operate six facilities that fall under the Department of Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities.

The problem of staffing

Goodman also had lingering concerns about retaining and hiring employees at Central State, according to his lawsuit.

She raised the issue “up the chain of command” and at quarterly hospital board meetings, in addition to requesting meetings on personnel issues with Centerstone, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, there had been no increase in central state for five years and in one case in November 2018, 12 employees left for the same hospital.

Goodman said in the lawsuit that Morris and McCain, a staff assistant, appeared to be trying to fabricate a problem at Central State so that it could be used “for an ulterior motive.”

The hospital has been under budget for years and historically had control over spending, hiring and staffing, according to the lawsuit.

But under the Bevin administration, spending and staffing decisions shifted to the Department of Behavioral Health and McCain, which the lawsuit said created a bureaucratic process that made managing staff shortages ” difficult, if not impossible on purpose ”.

Goodman demands that she get her job back, along with unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Matt Mencarini: 502-582-4221; mmencarini@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @Matt Mencarini. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/specialoffer.

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