ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Regional Health System has been fined $925,000 by the New York State Office of Mental Health for not following state guidelines regarding hospital beds.

In a letter to the hospital system, the Office of Mental Health says Newark-Wayne Hospital and Unity Specialty Hospital’s Psychiatric Inpatient Units were granted temporary capacity changes during the COVID-19 health emergency declaration.

In January of this year, the two were supposed to return to their regular capacity for beds in those units.

The state says they failed to do so, and fined RRH a total of $925,000.

“We need hospitals to step up and help us address New York’s mental health crisis which is why I fought to pass legislation that toughened the penalties for those that refuse to bring psychiatric beds online. Many hospitals are successfully collaborating with our Office of Mental Health to bring beds back online, but we will not hesitate to hold noncompliant entities accountable,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

Rochester Regional Health released a statement Thursday evening, saying:

Rochester Regional Health (RRH) has submitted three detailed plans over the past several months to the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). Most recently, on October 16, 2023, RRH submitted a detailed plan to bring back the offline beds to the maximum allowed by its operating certificates.

As OMH is aware, many of these beds have been offline for decades and would require significant renovation and construction to meet current state and federal minimum requirements for safe inpatient psychiatric care. These efforts do not include the significant cost and investment for staffing of these beds once established, compounded by the state’s well-documented shortage of nurses and psychiatrists.

The leaders of RRH, including its CEO, have held several meetings with OMH to work towards a joint solution. Therein, RRH provided information about significant outpatient programs that have expanded our behavioral health offerings beyond hospital walls. Additionally, RRH has offered several creative solutions that meet the needs of our community which OMH has not acknowledged.

We are surprised and discouraged that OMH has apparently ended our discussions by issuing a notice to impose a civil penalty against RRH for, in their judgement, a failure to comply with the terms of our operating certificates.  RRH strongly disagrees with this conclusion by OMH. Accordingly, RRH will exercise its rights under the law to request a hearing to contest OMH’s determination.