Beleaguered psychiatric hospital quietly shutters permanently

Montevista Hospital
Montevista Hospital is now permanently closed. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus)

A private psychiatric facility that found itself in trouble with federal and state regulators over substandard patient care has permanently shut down.

Signs taped to the doors of Montevista Hospital, located near Flamingo Road and Jones Boulevard, announce the facility is now closed. The signs redirect people seeking mental health treatment to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health and anyone undergoing a psychiatric emergency to nearby Spring Valley Hospital. Montevista’s main phone line similarly redirects to a recording announcing that the facility has closed.

Montevista’s owner, Strategic Behavioral Health, notified Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation about its impending closure and intent to layoff its staff in a letter dated March 11. The letter does not identify a reason for the closure but projected that the layoffs would happen sometime between May 15 and May 31.

When reached by the Current last week, a human resources representative confirmed that Montevista employees were being paid through May 15 but that the last patient had been discharged weeks earlier, possibly even in late March. They did not have the exact date on hand.

The human resources representative declined to comment on the reason for the hospital’s closure, saying she was not the appropriate person to speak on the matter.

Messages left at SBH’s corporate office in Memphis were not returned.

SBH acquired Montevista Hospital and its sister facility Red Rock Behavioral Health Hospital from United Health Services in 2012. The company merged the two entities four years later in 2016.

Montevista’s unceremonious ending comes roughly six months after the behavioral health hospital entered into an agreement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to correct serious issues that resulted in the hospital’s Medicare and Medicaid funding being pulled in August 2019.

In January, the Review-Journal reported that CMS officials said the hospital had passed several early milestones in its systems improvement agreement.

It is unclear what has happened between that agreement being reached in October 2019 and the hospital’s recent closure. The systems improvement agreement was effective for one year and could have led to recertification by CMS.

The Current has requested information from CMS on its interactions with the facility but has not yet received a response.

A spokesperson for Nevada’s Department of Public and Behavioral Health said it did not force the facility to close. The state last year fined the facility and temporarily capped its admittance of new patients. That cap was only in place for a month.

Montevista Hospital is listed as credentialed and in good standing in Nevada’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance database.

The June 2019 “Statement of Deficiencies” report that led CMS to rescind Medicare and Medicaid payments to Montevista details several instances of patients being in “immediate jeopardy,” in addition to a slew of other compliance issues related to staff requirements, patient assessments, medical records, patient’s rights and the facility’s governing body

In one documented instance, a patient in a residential unit set off the sprinklers “resulting in patients escaping the facility, and one patient not returning.” A day later, the same thing happened again, this time “resulting in three patients escaping the facility.” All three of those patients returned. Patients were also observed “cheeking” or hiding their medications and providing them to other patients.

That June survey by state and federal regulators was an unannounced follow-up to earlier surveys conducted in January and February of 2019 that found the hospital in violation of multiple federal standards.

The Wisconsin State Journal published the report on Montevista last year as part of an article on the regulatory issues facing SBH properties in multiple states.

Nevada has repeatedly ranked last in the nation when it comes to mental health, in part because of a lack of treatment options.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.