Tampa Bay Academy given 180 days to correct problems

TAMPA — State health officials on Thursday reached a settlement with the troubled Tampa Bay Academy that gives the youth mental health center 180 days to correct all problems or else permanently lose its license.

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration last month suspended licensing for the residential treatment center, which serves kids ages 4 to 17, after inspectors found evidence of unreported sexual assaults and anemic staffing levels.

Now, Tampa Bay Academy must pay a $50,000 fine and submit a detailed plan for correction. Once the state approves of the plan and is satisfied that the center has addressed any and all deficiencies, Tampa Bay Academy could be allowed to begin admitting up to 20 patients, each requiring state approval.

On Dec. 11, the Health Care Administration issued a moratorium on new admissions at Tampa Bay Academy, giving it until Jan. 9 to discharge all of its 54 patients — which it did.

Rich Warden, new director of the 20-year-old corporately owned center, said the order forced the center to lay off about 125 employees.

But Warden said he retained a core staff to help start over if the state gave its okay.

Now, the 100-bed facility must demonstrate total compliance with state and federal regulations — whether or not the findings were a part of the state's original grounds for suspending the license.

A copy of the settlement agreement shows that the state is particularly interested in seeing that Tampa Bay Academy adheres to a staffing plan that will "ensure sufficient qualified staff" are able to provide intensive levels of supervision required in the residential treatment environment, including one-on-one supervision.

The program in question at Tampa Bay Academy is designed to provide psychiatric treatment for youth struggling with eating disorders, chronic anxiety, drug abuse and sexual abuse, among other things.

Also on the 24-acre campus and unaffected by the state's punitive actions are five, 12-bed group homes for youth who require less intensive supervision, and a charter school now serving about 125 kids.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@spetimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Tampa Bay Academy given 180 days to correct problems 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:46pm]

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