The board of a provincially funded mental health services organization in the Brockville region has been replaced by a government supervisor.
The announcement came Wednesday through a joint letter from the chair of the board for Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Addictions and Mental Health (LLG-AMH) and the South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
The LHIN appointed Eric Hanna, president and CEO of Arnprior Regional Health, to take over the mental health organization. Hanna was an obvious choice, according to Renato Discenza, who has taken over for the LHIN in its transition to merge with other alike organizations, since Hanna was also appointed by the LHIN to conduct the review of the Brockville mental health organization last year.
Hanna’s appointment as supervisor came after months of discussion that began in May of last year, when the LHIN announced it would be stepping in to take over the organization. This came as a surprise to chair of the board Linda Bisonnette.
“We actually asked for an investigator’s report,” Bisonette told Global News, saying the board had no idea why the LHIN wanted to step in at the time.
Before the report was released, the board let go CEO Laurie Dube, although it’s unclear if the move was related to issues later detailed in the investigator’s probe.
Hanna’s report was completed in September 2019 and found several shortcomings, including a $1.9-million deficit and an overall lack of financial governance.
Hanna also identified several instances of personal spending on Dube’s corporate credit card, including green fees for a charity golf tournament, groceries, gas, alcohol and travel for family.
The report noted the board had not regularly been checking or did not have access to general financial records and the CEO’s finances, including credit card records.
Some of the shortfalls seemingly came from a decision made several years ago by the South East LHIN to merge the “back office” services of three Addiction Mental Health organizations in eastern Ontario: LLG-AMH, Addictions and Mental Health Services Hastings Prince Edward and Addiction Mental Health Services Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (AMHS-KFLA).
The latter organization, based out of Kingston, also went through a review process recently. A LHIN investigation of AMHS-KFLA that began in late 2017 alleged that AMHS-KFLA had “significant clinical, financial, leadership and accountability concerns.”
When the LHIN supervisor was put in place, the centralized back office in Kingston was moved to the Hastings Prince Edward branch.
Hanna’s investigative report highlighted that the transition of the back office staff from Kingston to Belleville presented issues for the Lanark Leeds Grenville branch.
Hanna noted there was a “non-collaborative approach” between Dube and the director of financial services based in Belleville.
He said there were “emails from the CEO of LLG-AMH which are unbecoming of a respectful relationship. Some of the wording could be viewed as being a threat.”
He also noted there were “very little efforts” from both Dube and the director of financial services to keep the LLG-AMH up to date with financial statements.
On Thursday, Discenza, who recently took over the South East LHIN from former CEO Paul Huras, noted that centralizing the three branches’ back-office staff never quite worked to its full potential.
Now, Discenza says they will be backtracking on that decision, and giving each Addiction Mental Health organization more autonomy.
“We want to get them to work within their community,” Discenza told Global Kingston in a phone interview. “The community really needs to decide what is right in their area, what works, since they’re dealing with real clients, real patients.”
Discenza did note that although there may have been issues on the financial side, client care has never been and will not be compromised during the transition. Bisonette, the former chair, also assured Global News that although financials may have suffered, patients have always received the care they needed.
Hanna said he believes staff at LLG-AMH have been working on some of the findings in his report and that in some cases they have addressed issues he thought he would need to focus on immediately, like balancing the budget.
He did note that some of the issues he pointed out in his report have become “marginally worse,” but he does believe things have changed significantly at the organization.