Mental health cuts deep PDF Print E-mail
Written by By JAN LARSON Sentinel County Editor   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:19
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Larry Mershman, Executive Director Wood County ADAMHS

Last year's $35 million cut in the state budget for behavioral health seemed brutal. Then came this year's cut of another $80 million.
"In some cases, entire line items were eliminated," Larry Mershman said of the state funding for mental health, alcohol and drug abuse services.
Mershman, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board, met with the county commissioners Tuesday to explain how his office was dealing with the latest round of state budget cuts.
Last year's local cut of $386,000 was pushed onto the providers - the local agencies that offer mental health and substance abuse services.
"Programs were either adjusted or eliminated," Mershman said.
So when this year's local share of the cut came in at $1,027,000, the board first believed they would have to again pass on that pain to the providers. However, after juggling some numbers, the board voted Monday evening to swallow the entire amount. Mershman said by eating the budget cuts, the board could keep its promise made to voters last fall.


"By the board absorbing this, we sustain our service infrastructure," just as voters were told during the levy campaign. "A promise is a promise."
Mershman told the county commissioners that now is not the time to cut back further on mental health and substance abuse services.
"What we need in this particular time period is to keep our infrastructure solid," he said.
Mershman explained the board was able to absorb the cut of more than $1 million by:
¥ The board's replacement levy generating $288,000 in new money.
¥ The higher level of federal participation in Medicaid, which will save the board $400,000.
¥ The levy collection for this year which was $156,000 more than planned.
¥ The board administration costs which were $17,800 less than planned.
¥ The out-of-county Medicaid match which was $32,200 less than budgeted.
¥ The cost for adult bed days which was $123,000 less than budgeted.
¥ The cost for children's psychiatric hospitalization which was $20,000 less than budgeted.
Also, the board is moving to a "fee for service" business model, which will require an estimated $400,000 less in advanced funds, Mershman said. The new "fee for service" approach will require the local mental health and substance abuse agencies to do more extensive planning, but it should not affect consumers of the services, he said.
Mershman explained the process is already used for Medicaid patients, and that local agencies were asked to set up sliding fee scales for the new system.
Judy Ennis, a member of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board, told the commissioners that all but one other county board in the state already uses the "fee for service" process.
"We're one of the last ones to go with it," she said. "The accountability factor is what appeals to me."
Board member Frank McLaughlin agreed.
"Enough advance planning is being done," to make it a fairly seamless transition for the agencies, he said. "It's something we've just got to do."
Ennis added that she was particularly pleased that the board absorbed the state cuts, rather than passing them on to service providers. She said the "devastating cuts" were "crippling a lot of agencies" in other counties.
Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown warned that the state budget cuts may not be over.
"It's probably going to get worse in the next budget go-round," he said. "This economic storm isn't going to be over for government at the same time as the industrial sector."
Mershman responded that any further cuts will be extremely difficult to handle.
"Any additional cuts, I have no notion where they will come from," he said.

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File photo. Participants during walk for mental health at Bowling Green city park. 5/30/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:49
 

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