Archive for Friday, June 18, 2010

Kan. mental health group asks users to pay more

June 18, 2010

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— In the past two years, High Plains Mental Health has cut its staff by 20 percent, eliminated programs and cut staff benefits — all because of a $1.2 million hole created by state funding cuts.

But the organization isn’t going to put all that funding burden on the 20 northwest Kansas counties it serves. Instead, it’s raising user fees and asking those counties to pay their fair share of costs associated with services provided in each county.

“For the second time in 10 years, we’re increasing our base fees to keep up with the current medical charges,” HPMH Executive Director Walt Hill said. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s just no other way for us to keep operating and continue to survive.”

High Plains’ fees are based on income and assessed on a sliding scale. Hill said the agency previously saw 30 percent of its clients receiving a 96 percent or greater discount on services, which for a one-hour, $100 counseling session would be $4 or less.

The increased fees still will be based on income but will require patients to be more invested in the services they receive. “There’s no other way to generate revenues,” Hill said. “We have to turn to those who are receiving the services and ask them to pay a larger portion.”

Hill presented his agency’s 2011 budget request to Ellis County commissioners Tuesday morning, asking for an additional $10,500 to bring the county to its appropriate funding level.

“Our board has put together a six-factor formula that helps give counties a benchmark for what their funding might be, based on population, valuation and payroll in the county,” Hill said.

In Ellis County, that benchmark is $236,840. Last year, the county allocated $226,285.

Some counties, though, aren’t nearly as close to their benchmarks, Hill said. Cheyenne County provided funding in 2010 at 45 percent of its equitable funding level, while Osborne and Graham counties provided funding at approximately 65 percent.

However, some counties are providing more than their share of support for the agency, including Gove County at 164 percent and Russell County at 137 percent.

Hill said he hoped the equitable funding model would provide counties with a better idea of the amount of High Plains’ services that are being used in each community.

“It has been a real challenge,” Hill said of finding a funding model that works for all parties involved.

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