11:32am

Tue March 26, 2013
Health and Welfare

Managed Care Causes Problems for Community Mental Health Centers

"Kentucky mental health centers are cutting back services and struggling to assist patients the first time they’re admitted because of ongoing struggles with Medicaid managed care," Don Weber reports for cn|2. "At the same time, they’re losing out on federal grants because of red flags caused by their administration costs being inflated by increasing contributions to the public pension system."


NorthKey Community Care Mental Health Center in Northern Kentucky, which serves eight counties, had to close its adult day-treatment programs for the seriously mentally ill. Dr. Owen Nichols, the president and CEO, told Weber, “I get calls periodically from elderly parents in the community wanting help with their adult child that suffers from schizophrenia because they’re now wandering the streets, having some difficulties with local authorities.”

A recent editorial in The Courier-Journal addresses Kentucky's need for better mental health treatment, saying that Kentucky has "an underfunded, fragmented and now —thanks mostly to Medicaid managed care —hopelessly complicated system of mental health care."

The editorial notes last week's C-J articles in which reporters Laura Ungar and Chris Kenning uncovered the problems families face when navigating a fragmented mental-health system while trying to provide appropriate treatment for a loved one suffering form a severe mental illness, in addition to the "F" grade Kentucky received for its poor mental-health funding.

The editorial also describes how structural issues with managed care, which began in November 2011, have complicated the state's mental-health system. It notes the community mental-health centers asked to be left out of managed care, "pointing out they already operate efficiently and amount to only about 3 percent of the state’s $6 billion a year Medicaid program."

In addition, the editorial notes, "State Auditor Adam Edelen recommended the Cabinet for Health and Family Services take mental health out of managed care and let the state resume running it." Against his advice and the requests of community mental-health centers, the state expanded managed care of mental health. Now some haven’t been paid for Medicaid services since January, when managed care took effect, the editorial says.

"The nightmare needs to end for the many Kentuckians who need basic mental health services," says the editorial. "It’s time for the state to fully explore this system and, if folks are serious about improving it, fix the problems and find the money to fund it." (Read more)