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02-25-04: Trying to prevent ‘doom’

Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board cuts budget, uses reserves


VAN WERT — The local mental health network delved deeper into financial crisis as Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services board authorized budget reductions to mental health counseling agencies in Mercer, Van Wert and Paulding counties at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting.
The 2.7 percent in annual cuts is aimed at helping the Tri County network remain solvent through June 2008. In addition to the cuts, the board also would deplete its cash reserves by $256,710 during the next few years. Board members chose to utilize the cash reserve to fund deficit budgets in the coming years to avoid making further cuts to mental health services.
2.7 percent cut
The 2.7 percent reductions in the annual grants to mental health agencies total $48,850 per year and $195,395 through June 2008. Foundations Behavioral Health Services, Celina, would lose $19,575 annually; Westwood Behavioral Health Center, Van Wert, would lose $20,578 each year; and The Counseling Center, Paulding, would see its annual grant decrease by $8,697.
State and federal funding directed through Tri County to the agencies has been stagnant since 2001, and Tri County has made some other reductions to offset deficits.
The current round of cuts, were necessary, Tri County Executive Director Keith Turvy said, to avoid the program’s “impending financial doom.” Drug and alcohol addiction treatment providers, like Gateway Outreach Center in Celina, were not affected by the cuts, although they also draw some funding from Tri County.
Turvy blamed the latest fiscal problems on the board’s legal obligation to provide Medicaid matching money for mental health patients from the three-county area who seek treatment outside the area. The local board pays the bills, but has no control over quality or length of care. Those payments average about $120,000, Turvy said.
“We get a computerized bill, we pay it. We’re not in a position to manage those expenditures,” Turvy said.
Medicaid funding
The out-of-county Medicaid match has been a fiscal issue for the Tri County board since 2000, although the problem looms larger because state funding has remained flat since that time. Without the Medicaid issue, the network still would be operating in the black, Turvy said. Instead, the board dipped into budget reserves to cover this year’s $66,000 budget deficit.
Tri County has an annual budget of about $5 million drawn from state and federal grants and a 1-mill property tax levy in the three counties that now collects about 0.6 mills due to increased property tax valuations.
Replacing the levy to add more local revenue is not an option until November 2007, Turvy said.
The current financial plan — after Tuesday’s cuts — would leave the board with an additional $50,000 cushion that could be later used to offset further reductions in agency funding, said Sandy Goodwin, Tri County’s fiscal officer. Beyond that, there remains a $100,000 final reserve account that the board set aside years ago. That money, though, is a “closing the doors fund” that would only be tapped if Tri County completely collapsed, Turvy said.
At a glance, the board’s financial ledgers show that at least $400,000 should remain in the coffers. But that money is barely enough to cover one-month’s bills, Tri County officials said.
Directors of the agencies that absorbed the cuts were told that Tuesday’s action is in no way final. June 2008 is a long way off, and already an additional deficit is looming for this year that will have to be corrected by June 30, Tri County officials said. Further cuts may be necessary, depending on state funding and the Medicaid costs that cannot be directly controlled.
“It’s a best guess. We don’t know the future,” Goodwin said.
But Tri County also would recommend board members fully restore the funding to the local mental health agencies if state funding unexpectedly increases, Turvy said.
The board’s budget/finance committee will closely monitor the budget situation on a monthly basis to stay abreast of developing issues, Turvy said.


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