photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World
The board tasked with overseeing Douglas County’s yet-to-open behavioral health crisis center is declining to comment on pointed allegations leveled by the facility’s outgoing director against Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky.
On Wednesday, the board of Behavioral Health Partners, the nonprofit formed to guide the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, declined to answer a series of questions about allegations in Dr. George Thompson’s resignation letter. Thompson announced in November that he would be resigning from his position as the center’s medical and executive director, and the Journal-World first reported Monday on the contents of his letter.
The letter included an allegation that Plinsky was “manufacturing” the facility’s failure in a bid to outsource its operations to an out-of-state for-profit company, Connections Health Solutions.
Plinsky told the Journal-World Monday that she believes the letter does not reflect her work on the TRC during the past year, and she said the instances Thompson outlined as purported proof of his claims weren’t accurate.
The Journal-World sought to determine whether the board of Behavioral Health Partners stood behind the allegations made by Thompson or whether they found them to be inaccurate. After two days of sending questions, the Journal-World was told by a spokeswoman that the board, led by chair Cindy Yulich, would have no comment until at least next week.
The spokeswoman, Sarah Bishop, the CEO of Lawrence-based Coneflower Consulting, did send a general statement asserting that BHP still hopes to work with the county on operating the center, which is located at 1000 W. Second St. near LMH Health’s main campus. The building itself was completed by June, but the facility has not yet begun providing mental health services to the community.
“Behavioral Health Partners and the Treatment and Recovery Center are still committed to the partnership with the county that was established when BHP was first founded,” the statement reads. “We believe this partnership presents the most effective means of quickly opening the TRC and providing much-needed services to some of our most vulnerable community members. We are prepared to open the TRC as soon as possible, and we look forward to sharing details with county commissioners on Dec. 14. As good partners to Douglas County, we want to assert our faith in County Administrator Plinsky’s openness to maintaining local control over the TRC and our continued hope that the commission will decide to move ahead with BHP leadership of the TRC as soon as possible.”
The following are some of the questions the Journal-World submitted to Yulich and BHP representatives between Monday and Tuesday that the board decided not to answer at this time:
• Do you share Thompson’s concerns that Plinsky plans to “manufacture a failure” to justify terminating any BHP contract and replacing BHP with Connections? If so, what do you think would be the motive for doing so?
• What is the status of BHP’s contract with the county? When does it end?
• The county has previously confirmed that it’s been engaged in ongoing discussion with Connections, including the possibility of managing and operating the TRC, while simultaneously working with the county for consulting services. Do you share Thompson’s concern that there is a conflict that Connections has been asked to evaluate BHP’s readiness to open, yet if BHP is deemed not ready, Connections purportedly is who will take over operations from BHP? If so, is there a way this perceived conflict could be avoided?
• How much funding does BHP currently have in hand that could be used for operating the facility?
• A press release from BHP in mid-November announcing Thompson’s departure framed the reason for his leaving as that he wanted more time to work on a book and consulting, but there was no mention of that reasoning in the letter Thompson wrote. Why was Thompson’s resignation framed the way it was in BHP’s press release announcing it publicly?
Bishop, the BHP spokeswoman, said BHP’s board has chosen to reserve any comments on these questions until after updating the Douglas County Commission on the status of the TRC at the commission’s Dec. 14 meeting.