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White Knight Could Save Mental Health Centers

WINSTED/LAKEVILLE — After a sudden announcement Tuesday that the Northwest Center for Family Service and Mental Health will close its doors at its facilities in Winsted and New Milford, the organization’s president said Wednesday that services in Winsted may be saved after all, thanks to a private donor.

The Northwest Center announced Jan. 2 that by the end of the month it would close two of its four sites (Winsted and New Milford) to cut operating costs for the organization. A press release said services would continue for existing clients in both the Torrington and Lakeville offices, and that all grants and contracts would remain in place.

"There have been some changes since that press release came out and we’re having conversations with people in the community to try to keep some of the services we have in Winsted," Campbell said Wednesday afternoon. "There’s been a generous donation and we’re hoping we’re not going to have to close down."

Campbell said the identity of the donor has not been released and that she expected to go into negotiations Thursday afternoon regarding the future of services in Winsted (which are offered at the Winsted Health Center on Spencer Street). There was no word on whether or not services can be saved in New Milford.

Campbell said in Tuesday’s press release that costs have continued to rise for the center, while state support and insurance reimbursement rates have stagnated or declined.

"The Medicaid reimbursement rate, in fact, does not even cover the cost of providing a unit of service," she said.

Campbell added Wednesday that the potential damage to clients in Winsted would be palpable.

"If we had to close that facility, we would have to transfer as many clients as posssible to our Torrington office and it is likely that many people without transportation would not be able to get there," she said. "We would have to look to hospitals or private providers for assistance."

Campbell said there are about 150 open cases in Winsted at any given time — which translates to as many as 500 people because of the family-oriented nature of the Northwest Center’s mental-health services.

The Winsted office also works with clients from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic at the Winsted Health Center.

"They’ve generously offered some space to our clinician who works with VA clients," Campbell said, "but our other three therapists would be gone if we close the Winsted office."

Campbell said the Northwest Center had achieved its goals for organizational and clinical excellence in 2004, receiving a perfect score from the national Council on Accreditation, which reviews and accredits behavioral health centers. "The Northwest Center will do everything possible to ensure continuity and excellence of care," she said.

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