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Mental-health Server Looking for More Funding

Mental-health Server Looking for More Funding

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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- Changes in Medicaid guidelines have reduced the ability of Davis County and Davis Behavioral Health to serve needy but not Medicaid-qualified patients.

As a result of the changes, the county has approved creation of new nonprofit agencies to cover the lost services. The agencies will provide fund-raising, employment for patients and family counseling.

DBH contracts with Davis County to provide mental-health and substance-abuse services.

Previously, when a mental-health facility was fiscally efficient and had leftover Medicaid money, it could use that money to build infrastructure or expand services to people who would otherwise not be covered.

Historically, DBH has provided services to between 75 and 100 patients monthly with surplus Medicaid funds, said Maureen Womack, DBH director.

Now, Medicaid has restricted how its dollars can be used. Only income-eligible individuals can receive services funded by the federal agency, which means there are no resources for uninsured or underinsured patients who do not meet the Medicaid qualifications.

"It is extremely distressing when someone is in crisis or in pain and you have to tell them, 'Sorry, there is nothing we can do for you,"' Womack said. "That is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do."

DBH plans to establish a foundation whose sole purpose will be raising funds for the treatment of uninsured patients and additional services not covered by Medicaid, such as treating children who have witnessed a parent's psychotic episode, Womack said.

"It's important to help the family deal with and understand the impact (of the illness) and the ripple effects of living with a person with mental illness," she said.

The foundation will seek charitable donations from private industries and individual contributors.

Another new agency, Diversified Employment Opportunities Inc., will help mental-health or substance-abuse patients find transitional employment, which can speed recovery, Womack said.

Daybreak Family Counseling will provide counseling for those not eligible for DBH services under the new federal guidelines.

The initial operating expenses of the nonprofit agencies will be funded from DBH's contingency reserve, which contains surplus private funds from insurance and private payments. No county money has been committed to the agencies.

The County Commission passed the resolution to create the new agencies by a 2-1 vote in a special meeting last week. Commissioner Carol Page voted against the proposal, expressing concern over whether the funds being used to establish the new agencies were private or public dollars.

But that does not really matter, according to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

"Our main concern is that the funding gets to the clients. We don't care if it is through a private nonprofit or county agency," said Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Human Services. "The county has the flexibility to do what it wants."

Womack said the new agencies will be operational Feb. 14.

"Now that we have the green light from the county, we are ready to hit the pavement running," she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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