The interim administrator at the Montana State Hospital has been put on administrative leave, a new development in the yearslong struggle to stabilize the beleaguered adult psychiatric facility.
Staff members at the hospital in Warm Springs were informed by Chief Healthcare Facilities Officer William Evo on Monday that Carter Anderson had been placed on leave, according to a state employee who was present for the announcement and asked to remain anonymous to avoid professional repercussions.
Evo did not explain the reason for the decision, according to that witness, but did share that Anderson will be replaced as administrator by David Culberson, formerly a hospital executive in California.
Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, the director of Disability Rights Montana, a watchdog group for the state hospital, confirmed to Montana Free Press Tuesday that Anderson “is no longer at [Montana State Hospital].”
Anderson declined to comment on his employment status when reached by phone Tuesday morning.
The state employee and Disability Rights Montana said the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer Christopher St. Jean had also been placed on administrative leave before Carter’s change of status.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, which oversees state hospital operations, declined Tuesday to address questions about the staffing changes, but confirmed Culberson’s new role at the facility.
“Effective Monday, March 20, David Culberson is the new interim administrator of Montana State Hospital (MSH). David joins MSH with more than 30 years of experience in hospital administration and turnarounds, including at publicly owned and operated facilities,” DPHHS spokesperson Jon Ebelt said in a Tuesday email. “We look forward to benefiting from David’s leadership and expertise in inpatient behavioral health facility management as MSH continues its substantial reform journey after more than a decade of neglect.”
Anderson took the helm at the state hospital in April 2022 after the facility’s former administrator, Kyle Fouts, was transferred to the state’s Intensive Behavior Center in Boulder. Fouts had been the subject of staff criticism and blamed for high levels of turnover at the state hospital. The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare removed the hospital’s accreditation during Fouts’ tenure after investigating patient falls, deaths and insufficient disease control measures.
Hospital employees had praised Anderson’s leadership in the months following his appointment, describing the transition as a “huge energy shift.” Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association, one of the unions representing hospital employees, responded on Tuesday to Anderson’s administrative leave by reiterating the importance of steady leadership.
Health officials pitch millions in funding priorities for Warm Springs, other state facilities
Lawmakers on a key budget committee heard requests Thursday from health department officials and consultants that they say will help stabilize the struggling Montana State Hospital and other public facilities that care for veterans, seniors and people with intellectual disabilities and substance-use disorders.
“At MSH, there is an ongoing need for stability (recruiting/retainment) in the nursing workforce and solid leadership to foster collaboration in addressing safe, high quality healthcare for one of our most vulnerable populations,” Byrd said in a written statement.
While the Gianforte administration has committed to systemic improvements to the publicly run facility in hopes of regaining federal accreditation, problems persist with high staff vacancy levels, reliance on contract employees, and overspending.
State hospital reforms and financing have also been a recurring topic of debate during the ongoing legislative session.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
This story was updated March 21, 2023, to include post-publication comment from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
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