Extension granted for State Home for Mentally ill

Sunday August 24, 2003 -- Posted at 1:11 p.m. CDT

Arkansas has a little extra time to fix problems at the state home for the mentally ill. Federal regulators are granting an extension on a deadline for the state to improve the Arkansas Health Center in Benton or lose 16 million dollars in federal medicare funding.

The state released a report in may on the center, disclosing numerous deficiencies after five people died in 11 months from what an Attorney General's investigation determined were ``acts of negligence'' by staff members. A sixth patient died may 30th after apparent staff failures.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initially set an August 18th deadline for improvements, but that is not extended until September 28th.

The nursing home is known for being clean, and residents' families and political leaders were critical of consultants' reports identifying rampant problems. But deficiencies were so bad in the center's pharmacy that it had to be shut down.

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