The findings of an unprecedented tri-agency audit on Mind Springs Health were presented in a webinar on Thursday, May 12. The audit comes after the three agencies received many complaints — including a whistleblower report over medication management — filed by county commissioners and elected officials some of which were from Summit County.
According to a release from the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing, a corrective action plan was already in place for Mind Springs following an April 2021 audit of the organization. The latest audit occurred in January after “ongoing complaints came from several community members who cited difficulty accessing behavioral health services and a lack of transparency from Mind Springs.”
For its portion of the audit, the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing looked to Rocky Mountain Health Plans to investigate Mind Springs. The organization is contracted by the state as an administrative service organization and works closely with Mind Springs. A Mind Springs employee voiced concerns to the organization about “medication management, medication reconciliation, lack of peer review process and other treatment practices in outpatient, inpatient and residential facilities,” the audit states.
During the webinar, Patrick Gordon, chief executive officer at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, presented some of those findings, which he described as “concerning and appalling in some cases.”
The Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing issued Mind Springs a corrective action plan detailing various ways the organization needs to improve.
The other two departments to conduct an audit on the organization were the Colorado departments of Human Services and Public Health and Environment. The Department of Human Services “found violations in critical incident reporting, release of information, service planning, discharge summaries, and necessary signatures,” the release states. It also issued Mind Springs corrective action plans.
The release noted that the Department of Public Health and Environment “was unable to substantiate any allegations of agency failures.”
During the webinar, leadership at each of the organizations expressed their optimism that these plans and frequent monitoring of Mind Springs would lead to much-needed changes.
“We need Mind Springs to be successful. We need this access point, the safety net across the Western Slope. We need the performance to improve, and the good news is that is has,” said Kim Bimestefer, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, during the webinar.
But some of Summit County’s local leadership isn’t so sure.
“I do disagree with the characterization that we need Mind Springs,” Pogue said. “I think what we need is care that is responsive to clients needs. I think there’s a variety of different strategies that could bring us there.”
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said the same.
“This is six years later,” FitzSimons said, referring to when Summit County started breaking away from Mind Springs. “What are we doing? Wash, rinse, repeat — nothing’s changed, and we’ve learned nothing new. So if they fail on these action plans, then what? Are we really going to go after them?”
Both Pogue and FitzSimons said there were grateful for the audit conducted by Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Pogue said their findings highlight the issues she’s heard from community members about their experience with Mind Springs. But with these new corrective action plans now in place, she expressed concern for how long it would take to fix some of the issues.
“What I heard yesterday was OK we’ve finished this audit, but it’s taken months to finish and now we have to go through another period where we see what Mind Springs submits to the state in terms of corrective action. That will take some time, and then it will take even more time for the corrective action to be made,” Pogue said. “So my frustration is in the meantime, people in Summit County are suffering, truly suffering.”
FitzSimons said he was concerned about time too, and that he doubts whether the recommendations and requirements set forth in the corrective action plans will actually be carried through.
“I think the state is just worried about what if Mind Springs isn’t successful,” FitzSimons said. “What does that mean? But again, what is success? What if they complete some of the action plan but not all of it?”
While both Pogue and FitzSimons are weary of what’s to come, Pogue said she would like to see local communities have more opportunities to be involved in the state’s investigations.
“I’d like to see more conversations with local communities. I would like to see more transparency around what the specific steps are that are going to be taken and how they are going to impact Summit County,” Pogue said. “I’d like to have more detail from the timeline of the implementation of some of these changes. What I am most looking for is some deeper understanding from the state of what went wrong and how we make sure this never happens again.”
For more information on the audits, visit HCPF.Colorado.gov/audit-findings-mind-springs-health.