API CEO, others resign following release of negative report
The top executive of the only state-run mental health hospital in Alaska resigned Friday, along with two other high-ranking health officials, just days after the release of a report declaring the Alaska Psychiatric Institute an unsafe work environment for employees.
In a statement, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services communications director Katie Marquette confirmed now former API CEO Ron Hale, Division of Behavioral Health Director Randall Burns and Deputy Commissioner Karen Forrest offered their resignations Friday and no longer work for DHSS.
The resignations come two days after the state made public a summary of an independent report compiled by Anchorage attorney Bill Evans. Evans' report declared API an "unduly unsafe" work environment for its employees, highlighting unsafe working conditions, insufficient staffing, a cultural divide over the issue of staff versus patient safety, a practice of favoritism by API's nursing administration and overall low employee morale.
In an emailed statement, DHSS Commissioner Valerie Davidson said:
"Effective immediately, I have appointed Monique Martin to serve as acting Deputy Commissioner of Family, Community, and Integrated Services. I have also appointed Gennifer Moreau-Johnson as acting Director for the Division of Behavioral Health, Duane Mayes as CEO of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, and Deb Etheridge as acting Director for the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. I have asked each of these individuals to help our department develop a clear path forward during this time of change."
On September 4, KTVA reporter Lauren Maxwell inquired about the status of API's compliance with CMS standards, asking a spokesperson:
"Can you tell me if something is happening with API regarding being Medicaid-Medicare compliant? My understanding is that there was some action taken on Friday with administrators there for being out of compliance? Are you able to share any details of this?"
In an email, Clinton Bennett with DHSS replied:
"We looked into this and confirmed that API has full certification with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services."
Maxwell further inquired, "No issues with leadership?"
To which Bennett replied, "No. The CEO of API, Ron Hale, is still in place."
When asked Friday if Forrest, Burns and Hale were asked to resign, Marquette did not elaborate on the circumstances of the resignations, saying later in an email, "I am not able to comment on personnel matters."
During Wednesday's news conference, Davidson confirmed API has admittedly had recent CMS compliance issues, saying the facility is under a "plan of correction" with CMS.
"They routinely do investigations of facilities and API is no exception, and we are under a plan of correction with our CMS review that was done at the end of May," said Davidson.
Davidson said the action stems from concerns about API's use of seclusion and restraints on patients.
API has had known safety issues for years. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Occupational Safety and Health cited API for being unsafe in 2014 and again in November of 2017.
When asked to express her confidence in the safety of patients at API through a hypothetical scenario during Wednesday's news conference, Davidson told reporters she would feel safe if placed under API's care as a patient herself.
Read more regarding Evans' report on API here.
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