NORTHWOOD MENTAL HEALTH IN HOT WATER - License Suspended After Deaths, Poor Care, $20 Million "Profits" Diverted To Christian Foundation

(10/16/2009)

WEST VIRGINIA TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

By Bob Weaver

The Hur Herald has long reported on Northwood Health System, a WV mental health agency in Wheeling, funded primarily by taxpayer money.

Northwood is in hot water, its' license was recently suspended following a number of client deaths and dozens of reports of inferior care, although the agency is still being allowed to operate.

CEO Pete Radakovich, for several years, has been paid nearly $500,000, while the next highest paid mental health center CEO in WV makes $104,000.

Most disturbing, Northwood Health Systems is a non-profit organization that has managed to make millions in "profits" every year, and has transferred at least $20 million to a Catholic foundation that promotes Christianity.

The profits aren't going to hire more Northwood employees or raise ground-level employee salaries.

Northwood has been widely touted in the Wheeling community, with reports of problems widely ignored and not reported.

Northwood transferred more than $20 million to the Christian Behavioral Health Foundation between 2003 and 2007, according to records on file with the state Health Care Authority.

Mental health advocacy groups say they are troubled that Northwood can put millions into a foundation, but is still under-staffing its crisis stabilization unit.

The Christian Behavioral Health Foundation has almost $35 million in assets, of which almost $32 million is cash and cash equivalents, according to its 2008 financial statement.

The Foundation says it is not a "related organization" to Northwood, according to a letter from lawyer James W. Thomas to the Health Care Authority.

Northwood and the Behavioral Health Foundation have one thing in common -- their CEO is Radakovich.

Radakovich has proclaimed Northwood a "world class provider," touting his corporate management skills through a public relations firm he hired.

"Simply put, Northwood has succeeded where others have failed," said a 2006 release from Northwood's PR firm, Charles Ryan and Associates.

Radakovich "instituted changes and ideas that not only saved Northwood, but could also save other health organizations as well," the release said.

In May 2006, the Chronicle of Philanthropy wrote a glowing article about Radakovich.

The article said he did this by cutting staff by one-quarter. He reduced vacation days and eliminated sick days entirely. He demanded staff see more clients and increased the workweek to 50 to 55 hours a week.

A state order now says that Northwood "conducts practices that jeopardize the health, safety, welfare and clinical treatment of consumers."

The Behavioral Health Foundation is not the only organization in which Radakovich has sought to inject Christian spirituality.

In 2007, he unveiled a new Web site for Northwood asserting that a strong Christian faith is an essential part of mental health treatment.

A section of the Web site included prayers, a depiction of Jesus being nailed to the cross and a photograph of Radakovich wearing a black shirt and gold cross necklace.

That web site has been taken down.

See earlier related stories:

NORTHWOOD CEO HIRES PR FIRM TO PROMOTE HIMSELF - Radakovich's $500,000 Sign Of Success

PROSPERITY RELIGION: NORTHWOOD'S PETE RADAKOVICH AND YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

RAGS TO RICHES ON YOUR DIME - Oh Well, It's Helping Others

SOLUTIONS TO WV'S MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS - Radakovich's Praise And Glory


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