Supervisors decide on next steps for mental health services for Pearl River County
Gulf Coast Mental Health (GCMH) announced on July 16, 2019, that it had met with its Board of Commissioners and determined they would not have funding to provide services beyond August 11, 2019.
Vickie Taylor, interim director of the agency, said shortly after the announcement was made, that her understanding is that money has run out because at some point the agency stopped billing insurance companies, including Medicaid, for the services it was providing.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors held a specially called meeting on Monday (July 29, 2019) to discuss their response to the state Department of Mental Health on the issues at hand with the financial situation of Gulf Coast Mental Health Center, the designated community mental health centers (CMHCs) for mental health services in Region 13 (Pearl River, Hancock, Harrison, and Stone counties).
The Supervisors heard an update from County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin based information that he had been able to gather the previous week pertaining to the current and future direction of the GCMH. Lumpkin said that the state of Mississippi Department of Health had issued an ultimatum to GCMH that gave them two options that Lumpkin referred to as Option A and B.
Option A required GCMH to develop a plan in ten (10) days that would show how it would be financially feasible for GCMH to operate by getting commitment money from the four counties in Region 13 for six (6) months of upfront funding, hire a new Chief Financial Officer, hire a new Chief Executive Officer, and take a few other related actions. Option B would be to dissolve GCMH Region 13 and have the entities join another CMHC (region) in the state.
Adrain Lumpkin (standing) discusses options with the board.
Lumpkin said he has sought out information from many sources in trying to put together the best possible recommendation on what he thinks is best for Pearl River County in making a decision to move forward. He said that on Friday, he had spoken with Mississippi Department of Mental Health Executive Director Diana Mikula and she told him that she is very optimistic that GCMH would be able to recover. During their conversation, Lumpkin said he asked Mikula what would happen in regards to funding if Pearl River County decided to join another region, like Pine Belt Mental Health Resources (PBMHR). Mikula explained that money is allocated based on population and if Pearl River were to move into the Pine Belt region, the state allocated money (funding) for Pearl River would go to PBMHR.
Lumpkin said that Harrison County appears to be taking the reigns of GCMH with some of the steps they have taken including partnering with Gulfport Memorial Hospital to develop a plan for moving forward, hiring a doctor to look at the current situation, and also bringing in an outside agency to address revenue billing for GCMH.
Lumpkin said that it takes approximately $1 million per month to run GCMH from what he was able to confirm. His data indicates that the state is advancing GCMH $1.2 million and Harrison County appears to have voted to advance $700,000. Lumpkin pointed out that with this funding and anticipated funding from the other counties, the total is approximately $3 million or roughly three months of operational revenue.
Lumpkin said he thinks Pearl River County should advance two months of funding to GCMH (approximately $30,000) and take the two months to look at the possibility of joining PBMHR. He said the two months (August and September money) would be the county’s commitment to keep the services available for the 735 patients in Pearl River County currently getting assistance from GCMH, while Pearl River County can look at moving forward with Pine Belt. Lumpkin added that number of patients was recently as high as 1,000 patients.
Lumpkin said another reason to consider a move to the Pine Belt involves the current alignment of the 10th chancery courts and the fact that four of the five counties in the chancery court district are in Pine Belt with Pearl River being the only county in a different region. Forrest, Lamar, Marion, and Perry are aligned with Pine Belt in Region 12 for mental health services. Lumpkin said he knows the chancery court, which by statue controls mental health, would like to be with Pine Belt because the way Pine Belt and GCMH handle the cases is much different and being with Pine Belt it would also create a more cohesive environment.
Lumpkin and the supervisors discussed the current and future funding of GCMH and all were in agreement that it was a risk to advance 6 months of funding to GCMH with no clear, committed funding source from anywhere else that could be verified by Lumpkin.
“Everyone I talked to said ‘oh it’s coming’, but no one has been able to tell me where the funding is coming from,” Lumpkin told the board.
The board was in agreement that their view on the future is that GCMH cannot survive just on the funding from the Region 13 counties. The board believes that unless the state comes up with some money beyond the $1.2 million they have advanced, GCMH’s situation will not improve long term.
Bonnie Hodge, who serves as the commissioner for Pearl River County with GCMH, was asked by District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday if GCMH has been financially stable during its 30 year existence?
Hodge told Holliday and the board that she has not been on the GCMH Board of Commissioners for very long. Hodge said it is her understanding, from what she has been told, that GCMH was not profitable per se, but has been able to make it because of disaster funding reserves GCMH had received that had kept them operating. She said the disaster reserves, from what she has been told, has offset losses in other areas. Hodge added that it when the latest crisis occurred, that reserve of money was quickly used due to changes at GCMH in how grants were administered and how billing was allowed, which created a cash flow issue because GCMH used to get their money upfront through reimbursement.
“This is a multi-level issue that caused this. Not any one thing that did it. The administration and management kind of inherited it and had lost the expertise,” Hodge said referring to the loss of employees who had previously performed the billing reimbursement functions.
The board made and approved a motion to create a resolution to advance GCMH the two months of funding and look at moving forward to join the Pine Belt region.
Background information --According to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, CMHCs operate under the supervision of regional commissions appointed by county boards of supervisors comprising their respective service areas. The 14 CMHCs statewide make available a range of community-based mental health, substance use, and in some regions, intellectual/developmental disabilities services. CMHC governing authorities are considered regional and not state-level entities. The Department of Mental Health (DMH) is responsible for certifying, monitoring, and assisting CMHCs. The CMHCs are the primary service providers of outpatient community-based services in the state to adults and children with mental illness, substance use, and intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.