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05-26-04 Health service expects to see red by 2008

By Timothy Cox

  VAN WERT -- Tri County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services on Tuesday approved a deficit budget for fiscal year 2005, following through on prior plans to deplete part of its budget surplus to keep funding to area clinical providers intact for at least another year.

  Based on current state and federal revenue, Tri County can remain financially solvent through the 2008 fiscal year, but only if a portion of its $250,000 reserve balance is tapped in each of those years.
  The fiscal year 2005 budget -- which begins July 1 -- shows $5,125,359 in revenue with expenses running about $47,000 higher than that.
  Also at Tuesday's meeting, board members awarded tentative contracts to its mental health and drug and alcohol treatment providers in Mercer, Van Wert and Paulding counties. The amounts are subject to change based on state funding levels, which likely will not be set for at least another couple of months, Tri County Executive Director Keith Turvy said.
  Foundations Behavioral Health Services, Celina, is expected to get $703,169 to provide mental health counseling and treatment. Westwood Behavioral Health Center, Van Wert, received a tentative contract of $739,247 for mental health services and another $198,395 for alcohol and drug treatment. Paulding County Mental Health Center, Paulding, is to receive $312,350 for mental health services and $133,960 for alcohol and drug services. Gateway Outreach Center, Celina, is to receive $254,251 for alcohol and drug treatment services.  The provider contracts make up about 73 percent of Tri County's total budget, fiscal officer Sandy Goodwin told board members.
  The alcohol and drug treatment contracts are frozen at 1999 funding levels. The mental health money is the same as this year after 2.7 percent cuts were implemented midway through the year to stave off a budget crisis.
  Turvy also noted another trend involving the local provider contracts. An ever-increasing amount of the funding is going toward matching funds for Medicaid-eligible patients. The problem with that situation is that the "working poor" are getting squeezed out of services, Turvy said. The working poor are people who hold jobs but have no insurance benefits; likewise, they make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid.
  "The public dollar, more and more, is going to the Medicaid match," Turvy said. "Medicaid is an entitlement and we have no control over it."
  Turvy credited the board's past foresight for helping get through the current budget crunch. If board members had not decided several years ago to set aside a budget reserve, the current situation would be even worse, he said.
  "I've had conversations with some of my peers; they're in a panic situation right now," Turvy said.
  Also Tuesday, board members learned state officials have released another $96,000 to the local system that can be used to expand a housing project in Van Wert. The current quadplex of apartments -- which serves those coping with mental illness -- can now be expanded into a six-unit complex.
  Turvy also noted that board members Paul Gray, Judy Fenton and Carl Wollenhaupt are nearing the end of their terms and cannot immediately be reappointed. Instead, Turvy suggested appointing the trio as community members to the board's drug and alcohol committee. They then could be returned to their board posts after one year, he said.
  "In these times I would like to have some experienced hands to guide the ship," Turvy said.


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