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Mental health providers prepare for big cuts

READ MORE: Mental health providers prepare for big cuts
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's not looking good for mental health providers in the Cape Fear. The Southeastern Center for Mental Health says it anticipates some big budget cuts next year.

With the state facing another budget deficit, SECMH, which allocates funding for mental health in our area, says services could take a big hit. Mental health provider met in Wilmington Friday to discuss the current and projected budget crisis.

"There's just not enough money to deal with everyone who needs service," Southeastern director Foster Norman told providers. "So it really comes down to rationing care."

Norman said the number of people serviced during the first quarter this year more than doubled from last year. He said Southeastern expects a possible $1-1.8 million budget deficit next year.

For those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems, service providers said the current budget cuts are not allowing them to provide optimal service to their clients

"This is the challenge that they face in terms of how to look at someone that they care a lot about and tell them that their services have been reduced or perhaps reduced all the way to nothing," service provider Tommy Puckett said.

After the meeting, providers split up into small groups to discuss prioritizing the budget. Providers like Donald Hoover said their biggest worry is not being able to help those who need their service.

"We had to cut our clients down from 35 hours of service to 20 hours a week, so we took a pretty sizeable hit on that hours wise," Hoover said.

Because of the anticipated budget cut, Hoover said his organization is not going to depend solely on funding from the state and is now searching out funding on grants and several other foundations.

Norman said Southeastern is planning for three different budgets: one for the same amount of funding as last year; one reflecting a 10-percent cut; and another with a 15-percent cut.

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Mental Health Reform

The new mental health reform that is putting a formerly state run Medicaid program to be run by regional Managed Care Organizations (MCO)is causing providers and consumers undo stress and is decreasing the quality of care and the access to services. Mental Health providers who are now currently credentialed with Medicaid will now have to apply for an all new credentialing process with each individual MCO in order to serve consumers from the areas. If providers see consumers who are registered in one county, but are living in another county (living with grandparent, group home, etc.), if the provider is not credentialed with that MCO, they can not serve the client. As a provider trying to go through this process, it is beyond frustrating and providers are questioning whether or not it is worth it to see Medicaid consumers. Now, instead of billing to one place, providers may be billing to all the MCOs. In addition, there is no reciprocity between MCOs and the paperwork is different for all the MCOs with no uniformity. The new waiver also allows Medicaid to close their networks meanging that unless their "yearly" needs assessment reveals that they need new providers, they will not allow new providers in the network. For group practices, if one provider leaves the group, the group will not be allowed to replace the provider to serve the consumer's needs unless the MCO decides in their "yearly" review that more providers are needed. As our office has been trying to make contact with various MCOs across the state to attempt to be in compliance, we have only had one MCO even return our call and have not gotten through to any of the provider relations departments of the MCOs. Many of the internet sites that we are referred to are "under construction" and the information is not available. When we called Southeastern Center, the receptionist who answered the phone acted like she didn't even know what we were talking about. I urge providers and consumers to educate yourselves about this new reorganization and take action.

It's really all a waste of

It's really all a waste of tax payer dollars. Everyone keeps talking about "the hospitals and jails will overflow with mental health clients." Hello? That's how it is already. I hope that this time, they replace more than the director of southeastern.

Southeastern, even under new

Southeastern, even under new leadership continues to mis-manage its funds. Earlier this year, they let an influx of new clients in the system which flooded the system, thus leaving those currently receiving services for years, with a deficit. There is NO accountability with SEC. Foster continues to push for this agency to strive to get accounts and medicaid authorization services when they cannot even manage their own accounts. Today, providers spent hours on backed up servers trying to get approval for services for their clients....everything with this LME is reactive...not proactive and will change every week before any implementation. Families are disgusted, providers are disgusted ( but have little room to complain without implications) and clients are suffering. I wish this LME would come out of its little box on 17th St and take a look at what damage they consistently do to our local economy and specifically to the people with serve.