Letter to Ameythyst about the sorry job they did for my son. I've heard plenty of scare stories about how these jerks say they treat people but when the insurance money runs out.they let them go!! We need a better system!!! What we have now is not working well enough. BTW..I never received a response from them..nothing!! What assholes!!

-This place is closing February 2000. see story

Dan Harrison, Administrator                                            August 2, 1997
PO Box 35082
Charlotte, NC 28235-5082

Dear Mr Harrison:

   On July 1, I came to Amethyst with my 19 year-old son Thomas for a “free” assessment of his substance abuse difficulties. Pauline Lockrow was the interviewer and after a 1 hour or so private meeting with Tommy, she was very emphatic  that he needed to be admitted as he was suffering from a life-threatening  narcotics habit that required a medical detoxification program and intensive care to learn how to overcome  this disease. She sighted a seizure he had at 16 and urged that he be treated NOW.
   However, there was the major concern of finding an affordable facility able to admit him. He does have insurance thru his employer but it is limited to $5,000 for illnesses of this kind. After your staff’s initial contact with the insurance carrier(ACS in Winston-Salem) it was determined that he was eligible for treatment at Amethyst which Tommy agreed to undertake.
  About 15 minutes into processing Tommy for admittance,  a supervisor who’s name I don’t remember, informed me that there was a mistake and that a second call to his insurance carrier revealed that it would not cover him because Amethyst is not a  Medicare certified facility. I offered to pay the fee out of my pocket and petition the insurance company later to reverse its decision, however she encouraged me to take Tommy elsewhere but offered no alternatives. She explained that a detox program is ineffective without intensive follow-up care and that some places do not accept patients for after-care if they didn’t do the detox at the same facility. She did however offer to negotiate a reduced up-front fee from $3,000 to $1,800 that was required to admit him for detox. By this time, Tommy and I were going thru a emotional roller coaster:

Being upset with all this and very concerned about my son, I gave the lady my credit card and asked her to admit him. I had been convinced by your firm that my son needed treatment NOW and that we were at a qualified place to get it done. I also felt confident that being the President of the company where Tommy works that I could influence ACS to change their classification so that Amethyst would qualify.
   Several times over the next few days I contacted Nancy Langy(sp?) who I believe was the case worker there. I asked her about Tommy’s progress and the availability of effective aftercare. She was quite helpful and commented that she would refer him to Tri-County in Salisbury for treatment on Monday the 7th. I told her that Tri-county was on the verge of dissolution and I was concerned about their effectiveness in providing intensive care. I also told her that Tommy’s insurance company reversed itself and that paying for intensive aftercare was a possibility. She was surprised but told me to contact Kathy Womble about reapplying for insurance which I did. In any event, my conversation with Nancy lead me to believe that due to the severity of withdrawal associated with the type of drugs Tommy was using,  he would not be released until Monday July 6th and at that time we would talk about effective alternate after-care.
   Unfortunately your company released him a day earlier on Sunday with a referral given to him to Tri-County. He only made it to Tri-county for the initial meeting and never attended the 3 hour daily meetings that was considered sufficient to arrest his addiction. By Tuesday and for every day following for the next three weeks, he was back using stronger and more frequent amounts of narcotics while stealing and pawning more stuff to support his habit than he was before he visited Amethyst.
  On July 22, 1997, Tommy was admitted to Mercy Hospital for a second medical detoxification. They had been highly recommended by two different after-care facilities-McLeod and Hope Valley. I also learned that Amethyst had previously referred some of their de-tox patients to both of these facilities. This made me wonder why in god’s name you all didn’t do that in the first place. I had informed your people about Tri-county’s difficulties and that he now had insurance-two key pieces of information that should have made a big difference in who your company referred my son to. Why wasn’t I informed about these affordable alternatives of McLeod and Hope Valley?  With Hope Valley in particular, Tommy could have gone straight from Amethyst into their program and only exceed his insurance limits by $1,500 which I could have made up for him. Now his insurance is used up because his first detox with your firm cost so much and actually did more harm than good. I realize that it was July 4th weekend and the initial confusion about insurance was a problem, but there still is a question of ethics here and whether there was ever an intention to find the right level of care for my son or just to take advantage of his insurance policy.
    Tommy is now in Hope Valley after spending 6 days at Mercy Horizons center. We are praying that he will be receptive to and receive adequate care that will help him resist substance abuse for the rest of his life.
   As for your firm, you folks have a lot of room for improvement. At a very minimum, your firm must reassess your admittance policy. The powerful emotions that are aroused when your “free assessment” indicates urgent action is needed must be tied to the availability of care that stands a reasonable chance of successfully treating the patient. Why entice someone in the front door with “free assessments,” urge immediate action for treatment and then if insurance is not available, tell them to leave or give them the option to pay a reduced up-front fee for limited treatment? Anyone experienced with the type of substance abuse Tommy was in knows it won’t work. Why not say “We need to check your insurance to see if we can afford to treat your son to our standards if indeed our interviewer recommends urgent action. We don’t want to end up recommending a program that will only treat him half-way as a narcotic addiction requires far more than just a few days of detoxification.  In the mean time, here is a list of alternate facilities that are available.” Then as in  Tommy’s case, it comes back that no, your insurance doesn’t recognize Amethyst because it’s not a Medicare certified facility, we could go to another facility  and not be out $3,455.
  The other major improvement that your firm needs to address is your discharge procedure. It seems to me that there ought to be an exit interview with the staff person assigned to the patient and the family member that admitted him. How can you spend 2 hours in an initial interview where urgent care is recommended and not spend at least  ½ hour for an exit interview? I  was given a 5 page family profile to fill out and expected to at least be contacted by one of your staff but wasn’t. In addition, wrongful assumptions outlined above could have been clarified which almost assuredly would have lead to a decision to admit Tommy to a 28 day program.
  Finally, we still owe $1,655.60 on your bill after having paid $1,800 up-front. I am going to urge the insurance company not to pay the balance as I believe your company failed to adequately treat my son and harmed him by reducing the amount of insurance available for intensive aftercare. I might also contact a lawyer to see about recouping the up-front fee. I don’t want to be completely negative here so one bright side about his visit to Amethyst is that he had a one week break from substance abuse and he spoke highly of your medical staff.
  In conclusion, I hope you will take these comments seriously as I can assure you that these faults I’ve outlined are very real. It may be too late to help my son, but it’s not too late for others who are substance abusers who get lost in the shuffle at Amethyst over a holiday weekend or any other time for that matter. I trust you will review your procedures as they are truly inadequate. If you have any comments or wish to contact me, I can be reached at 1-704-279-5526 during the day or at 1-704-633-3543 in the evenings.


         Mike Jones
        PO Box 958
         Granite Quarry, NC 28072

CC: ACS consulting
       Charlotte Observer
       Senator Betsey Cochrane
       NC Dept of Justice-Consumer Protection Service
       NC Public Health Association

Carolinas HealthCare will close Amethyst

                                     By KAREN GARLOCH

                  After more than seven years of operating in the red, Amethyst, a 24-bed
                  substance abuse treatment center in southeast Charlotte, will close at
                  the end of February.

                  The Willows, a four-year-old sister facility next door, also will close. It
                  has 52 beds for adolescents with substance abuse problems and
                  mental illness.

                  The owner, Carolinas HealthCare System, plans to sell the buildings on
                  Sharon Road West and transfer patients to other sites, including
                  CMC-Randolph, the former Center for Mental Health, on Billingsley

                  The two facilities have more than 125 counselors, nurses, aides and
                  clerical workers. Some will move to other jobs in the hospital system,
                  spokesman Scott White said.

                  The closing, which will save the hospital system $3million a year, is
                  prompted by changes in the way substance abuse treatment is
                  financed, White said.

                  "When that facility was built, the 28-day inpatient treatment model was
                  the norm," he said. "You rarely find that today. The payers are not
                  willing to reimburse for 28-day treatment when they see intensive
                  outpatient treatment as being very effective."

                  Most patients at the two centers are outpatients, White said.

                  The number of inpatients has been declining steadily; those remaining
                  are in detoxification, which takes about a week. Detox patients will be
                  referred to centers at Mercy Hospital, Union Regional Medical Center
                  and Kings Mountain Hospital, all owned or managed by Carolinas
                  HealthCare System.

                  The hospital system took over several million dollars in debt when it
                  merged with Amethyst in January 1993.

                  In the mid-1980s, the private board of Amethyst (then known as the
                  Charlotte Treatment Center) undertook a $12million building program
                  on the assumption that insurance companies would continue to
                  reimburse for inpatient care. That changed in the late 1980s as
                  employers and insurance companies tried to curb the rising cost of
                  health care.

                  And that's when the Amethyst board went looking for a partner.

                  Steve Newman, a Mecklenburg County Health Department official and
                  former director of the county's substance abuse services, said the
                  closing is not good for Mecklenburg County.

                  "We're not a community that has so many substance abuse beds that
                  we can afford to give them up," he said.

                  But he acknowledged that "it's very difficult to get residential treatment
                  approved for third-party payment."