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Valley Mental Health laying off 100 employees

By Marjorie Cortez | Posted - Apr. 8, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Valley Mental Health will reduce its workforce by 100 people over the next three months. The layoffs will affect clinical, local unit administration and central administration workers of nonprofit treatment provider, which has about 1,137employees.

“This restructuring positions Valley to continue doing what we have done for nearly 25 years: provide services to people with mental health and substance abuse issues. Every decision we make is made with our clients in mind,” said Debra Falvo, chief executive officer and president.


Like everyone else here, the clients are their No. 1 concern.

–Christopher Katis


The reduction in force will not impact the agency's contractual obligations to Salt Lake County nor alter services in Tooele or Summit counties, according to a prepared statements.

Tim Whalen, Salt Lake County's director of Mental Health, said Valley Mental Health officials have assured county officials that the changes were needed to enable the service provider to remain competitive.

"They need to make cuts to be more efficient both in terms of production and administration. Some of the cuts you're seeing today are reflective of that," Whalen said.

The cuts also reflect an upcoming change how Valley Mental Health will be paid for its services. For nearly 25 years, the agency's contract to provide mental health services to Salt Lake County clients was funded by the Utah Department of Health using Medicaid dollars. For that entire period, VMH has both managed patient care and has been a direct service provider.

Last year, through a competitive bidding process, Salt Lake County selected OptumHealth to act as an administrative services organization for county mental health services. Valley Mental Health will be a contractor provider to OptumHealth, the health and wellness business arm of United Health Group.

Those contract negotiations are near completion, although Valley Mental Health initially filed a formal protest over the county's selection of OptumHealth. Following a review, county administrators stuck with OptumHealth.

Beginning July 1, OptumHealth will procure and manage mental health services for clients of Salt Lake County Mental Health. The three-year contract is worth approximately $52 million a year. Valley Mental Health is expected to remain a primary provider of client services, Whalen said. OptumHealth can contract with other mental health providers as needed.

"These are public dollars and we are the stewards of those public dollars. We want to make sure every dollar we can goes into efficient, effective services for clients," Whalen said.

The county is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to produce fliers for clients that help explain the changes and what they can expect during the transition.

Valley Mental Health spokesman Christopher Katis said all affected employees were informed of the layoffs Friday. Some jobs will terminate immediately but some mental health care providers have been invited to stay a couple of weeks to ensure clients have a smooth transition to new clinicians.

"Like everyone else here, the clients are their number one concern," Katis said.

Other cost saving measures have been implemented, said Katis. The mental health services provider is eliminating some contracts, selling vehicles, attempting to negotiate lower costs for prescription medication and reducing janitorial services.

Whalen said county officials are hopeful that displaced Valley Mental Health employees can be hired by OptumHealth.

Email:mcortez@ksl.com

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Marjorie Cortez

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