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Salt Lake County budget cuts affect mental health providers

SALT LAKE COUNTY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Valley Mental Health said due to a shortfall in funding from Salt Lake County and OptumHealth, they must transfer patients to another provider starting Monday.
SALT LAKE COUNTY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Valley Mental Health said due to a shortfall in funding from Salt Lake County and OptumHealth, they must transfer patients to another provider starting Monday.

CEO and President of Valley Mental Health Gary Larcenaire said starting July 1, their funding from OptumHealth will be reduced by $150,000 a month. Larcenaire estimated the total shortfall for the year to be approximately $2 million.

“It’s a real cut for us on Monday that we have to absorb so we can continue to be a viable resource to this community,” he said.

Valley Mental Health, a non-profit organization, has locations across Salt Lake County and in Summit and Tooele Counties.

The budget shortfall only affects their facilities in Salt Lake County because the county provides funding through OptumHealth.

To make up for the budget shortfall Larcenaire said he created a plan to transfer low level clients to a different provider and focus only on fragile patients, like children with autism or those who call their crisis hotline.

“If you’ve been a danger to yourself or others, we don’t want to lose you out of our care,” he said. “We want to keep you.”

ABC 4 Utah reached out to Salt Lake County to find out why funding has been cut.

Tim Whalen, Director of Mental Health, said the county’s Medicaid funding is limited to what the county can match in local dollars.

Because of that, officials chose to make 5.5% cuts across the board to over 200 providers in Salt Lake County for the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Whalen said certain laws protect funding to programs within Valley Mental Health and their cut was less at 4.9%, which totals to about $1.2 million and not $2 million.

Whalen also said Larcenaire had talked about moving patients before the budget shortfall. In response, Larcenaire said the plan was only developed as a way to minimize impact after a first round of budget cuts in 2012.

The plan will transfer low level patients who have not sought mental health services in the past 6 months to a year. Those who do get transferred will receive another provider through OptumHealth.

A letter will be sent Monday the first 400 clients being transferred, but Larcenaire estimated the cuts will affect 1,600 to 2,200 clients to be transferred from July 1 to Sept. 1.

“We’re going to make sure no consumer loses care,” Whalen said. “Any one of the Salt Lake County residents that gets that letter will have services available to them.”

Larcenaire hopes the process will be seamless. He said VMH will provide resources and numbers for their transferred clients to call if they have any questions or concerns.

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