Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction
and Mental Health Services board cuts budget, uses reserves
By TIMOTHY COX
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
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.
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
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,”
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.