Camden County freeholders have voted to sell a public health center - but the county will retain control over the center's psychiatric unit.

 

Under the agreement, Ocean Healthcare will pay more than $37 million to operate Camden County's Health Services Center, which includes a 300-bed long-term care unit and a 150-bed psychiatric unit. The county will lease back the psychiatric unit, and continue to run services there.

 

Dan Keashen, spokesman for the freeholders, says the decision was a needed compromise: "To put the county in a position where it could continue to provide this service, and afford it."

Keashen says because of different rules in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, the long-term care facility was losing $30,000  every day, but the county can operate the psychiatric beds without losing money.

Phil Lubitz, of NAMI, New Jersey, says the decision is a solid compromise. He says mental health advocates were very concerned that the county was going to get rid of the psychiatric beds as well. "The loss of those 150 beds would quite likely have thrown the entire public mental health system in South Jersey in crisis, so we are both relieved and gratified."

Lubitz says New Jersey is already experiencing a shortage of hospitals that can treat people with severe mental illnesses.