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Mental health group returns donation from embattled company

When Arbour Health System mailed a $10,000 check to a leading advocacy group for the mentally ill, it was a welcome donation for the organization’s annual fund-raising walk. But earlier this month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Massachusetts decided to send it back because of recent newspaper stories about poor conditions at the company’s psychiatric hospitals.

“In good conscience we had to return it,’’ said executive director Laurie Martinelli.

NAMI Mass plans to hold its largest fund-raiser on May 14, a 5-kilometer walk starting in Brighton that brings in 40 percent of the group’s budget. This year’s goal is $650,000.


The organization returned a corporate donation on one other occasion: $7,500 was sent back to Arbour several years ago for similar reasons, Martinelli said.

An Arbour spokeswoman, Judy Merel, said the company was disappointed by NAMI’s decision. She wrote in an e-mail that the check was returned without any outreach to Arbour “to discuss events and gather information prior to making this decision.’’

Merel said Arbour shares NAMI’s mission “to improve the quality of life both for people with mental illnesses and for their families.’’ Donations help pay for education programs, support groups, the information help line, and grass-roots advocacy efforts, she said.

NAMI posted the decision on its website and invited people with questions to contact the organization.

Several weeks ago, the state Department of Mental Health ordered four Arbour psychiatric facilities to correct “significant patient care and life safety violations” or risk a shutdown of admissions. Arbour is part of the giant for-profit company Universal Health Services, the largest provider of psychiatric care in the country.

The state’s warning came after more than a dozen unannounced licensing inspections, at all hours and on weekends, at every Arbour inpatient facility in Massachusetts, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ spokeswoman, Michelle Hillman.


Inspectors discovered a range of violations, including group programs that applied to only a small percentage of patients, dirty and cluttered rooms, including dining rooms and bedrooms, incomplete treatment plans for patients, and inadequate staffing.

The company submitted corrective plans for the four facilities cited by the state: Pembroke Hospital, Westwood Lodge, The Quincy Center, and Arbour Hospital in Jamaica Plain, according to the mental health department.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at