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West Palm Beach mental health hospital in financial trouble closes

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 10/19/2019 By Hannah Morse, Lulu Ramadan, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
a sign on the side of a road: The Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, which recently filed for bankruptcy, October 3, 2019. [LANNIS WATERS/] © LANNIS WATERS/ Palm Beach Post, Fla./TNS The Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, which recently filed for bankruptcy, October 3, 2019. [LANNIS WATERS/]

WEST PALM BEACH — A financially troubled mental health facility that served low-income and uninsured patients took a major, if not final, turn Friday by closing its in-patient hospital. That status of as many as 260 employees is unknown.

The 44-bed hospital at Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health on 45th Street quit admitting patients ever since the center filed for bankruptcy protection in late September.

That self-imposed moratorium never lifted.

As Delray Beach-based South County Mental Health Center temporarily took over the in-patient hospital operations — in addition to Jerome Golden's eight-bed crisis stabilization unit in Belle Glade and the mobile crisis unit — hospital patients were slowly discharged over the following weeks.

The hospital's closure also means the Jerome Golden employees that South County had hired to continue running the hospital, about 20, were laid off.

"We can't keep them. It's terrible," Speicher said. "We don't have any place to put them if there's no crisis unit to run."

About 350 people worked at nonprofit Jerome Golden before its bankruptcy filing. Thirty-four were laid off as programs were discontinued, but another 50 were hired by South County. That left as many as 260 employees' statuses unknown. Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, which oversees mental health providers in the region, held a job fair for those who were laid off.

Officials weren't able to confirm exactly how many people had been laid off.

A source told The Palm Beach Post that the locks on the 45th Street center's doors were changed Friday afternoon as employees were told to pack up their offices. The doors of Jerome Golden will be locked after 5 p.m. Friday so prospective clients can't go onto the property.

"They are blindsiding many of us again," the source said.

The shutdown of a critical intake center for low-income mental health patients will have ripple effects throughout the county, said Terry Rowbotham, a nurse at the Jerome Golden Center since 1987.

"We're going to see a lot more homeless people in the area," Rowbotham said. "I don't know where are the indigent patients are going to go. They say they'll take them at South County, but some people don't have the ability to travel down to Delray Beach."

Some of the county's most vulnerable patients have been going to the Golden Center for treatment for years. A shift in doctors and possibly treatments will be a hurdle for patients, Rowbotham said.

"It's going to be harder on them than it is on us," Rowbotham said of the patients she's worked with for decades. "Change is hard on anyone, but especially on mental health patients."

Though some employees learned they'd lost their jobs, they worried more about the patients they served.

A case manager laid off last week after working at the center for three years said the shutdown hurts the county's uninsured patients, who aren't accepted at for-profit hospitals.

"The thing that made Jerome unique is that we accepted self-pay. You didn't need insurance," she said. "Now where will those patients go?"




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