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Bradley Hospital to East Prov: you owe us 4.5 million dollars

September 13, 2011

It seemed like such a great idea- Bradley Hospital and East Providence Schools teaming up to educate students with special needs inside “mainstream schools.” The program was supposed to save the schools money and offer more inclusive education.

They called it The Partnership and a Providence Journal article glowingly proclaimed that troubled children were “no longer apart” from their peers.

But about two years after The Partnership formed, it’s falling apart. According to a letter obtained by Rhode Island Public Radio, East Providence isn’t paying for Bradley’s services.

In the letter, Bradley Hospital President and CEO Daniel Wall tells East Providence Superintendent Edward Daft and School Committee Chairman Charles Tsonos they owe his hospital nearly 4.5 million dollars.

Here are the facts: through the end of August, 2011, the City of East Providence owed Bradley Hospital $4,230,888.50 for special education services delivered to East Providence students. On average, Bradley’s monthly billings to the City for these services are $330,000. The only payment the City has made to Bradley since February, 2011 was $67,842 in May, 2011. Since Bradley continues to provide special education services, the balance as of the date of this letter continues to grow and, if no payments are made this month, will likely exceed $4,500,000 by September 30, 2011.

Daniel Wall writes that school officals assured him they’d make a “significant payment” towards the debt by the end of August, but no money arrived. Wall says more recently, the school system said it’s “not in a position to offer any payment plan.” Now Bradley Hospital is taking more aggressive steps to recoup the money.

In the event the City has not cured its default within thirty (30) days after you receive this letter, Bradley will have the right to terminate the Agreement and discontinue providing special education services under the Partnership to East Providence students. In that event, Bradley will not accept new referrals, will begin discharging current students, and generally wind down the Partnership.

East Providence Superintendent Edward Daft wasn’t available to comment on the letter, but I did reach East Providence School Committee Chairman Charles Tsonos. He says the 4.5 million dollars are part of a “historical debt.”

I spoke to Mr. Wall and I reassured Mr. Wall that we were going to work on this problem, but this is not a new problem, this is a problem that has gone on for years when the prior administration approved a partnership that was unsustainable… no one has had the resolve to address it.

Tsonos says it’s his understanding that the money East Providence owes Bradley extends beyond the start of the Partnership in 2009.

There was a debt that was owed prior that was rolled into this. It’s not like we started out in 2009 with no debt, there was a debt in 2009 also… I believe it was for prior services that could not be paid.

As for the 30 day deadline for paying the debt, Tsonos says the school committee is talking with its lawyers and city officials  about what to do next.

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