Plan outlines MAC closure if needed

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 17, 2009

Brookhaven’s Mississippi Adolescent Center remains open and willlikely continue to function throughout 2009, but the MississippiDepartment of Mental Health now has a plan for closing the facilityin place.

If MAC were to be shut down, the approximately 25-page planwould be used to arrange for the transfer of patients to otherfacilities, the elimination of staff and the care of empty stateproperty. The State Board of Mental Health received the plan fromMAC’s six-member Contingency Closure Committee, which consists oflocal facility directors, Thursday at a monthly board meeting.

“No decision was made (to close MAC), but they have the plan,and if at some future time they close it, they’ll use this plan,”said board member Johnny Perkins, of Brookhaven.

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DMH Executive Director Ed LeGrand said the department does notintend to put the plan into action.

“This plan was never meant to necessarily be implemented,” hesaid. “It was a possible plan of closure for DMH to determine howit would respond in the event of a closure. By developing thisplan, we were able to determine what actions we would need totake.”

LeGrand said there is no danger of MAC closing this fiscalyear.

MAC is the only mental health facility in the state asked by theboard to prepare a plan of closure. Potential future financialissues have been cited as reason for development of the plan.

The plan is divided into three phases and could take four monthsto complete.

In the first phase, half of the facility’s 30 young patients,who range in age from 8 to 21, would be discharged to otherfacilities or back to the care of their guardians, with MACofficials making arrangements for continued home treatment from thedepartment or Community Mental Health Centers. The remaining 15patients would be consolidated into a single residential dorm.

Layoffs in Phase One would begin with the elimination of 44employees, approximately 50 percent of the facility’s 87-memberworkforce, leaving 43 employees to attend to the remaining 15 MACpatients. MAC officials plan to administer employment aid todeparting workers by hosting job fairs, career counseling andcontacting other department facilities to place them in openpositions.

Phase One would be expected to take six weeks. When it iscomplete, the facility’s monthly expenditures for salaries woulddrop from $316,658 to $170,783, and its commodities spending woulddrop from approximately $30,000 to $12,500. MAC operates on $5million annually.

Phase Two of the plan would attempt to discharge the remaining15 clients, all of whom require close supervision and care notavailable at home. The plan lists two recommended treatmentfacilities for each client being discharged.

The second phase would also eliminate a further 39 employees,leaving only four directors to shepherd the facility into PhaseThree. MAC would require only $22,558 per month for the fourdirectors’ salaries.

In Phase Three, the remaining directors would begin transferringproperty and equipment to other mental health facilities and makingsure that all outstanding bills and debts are paid andtransferred.

The plan recommends hiring one full-time maintenance worker forapproximately $30,000 annually and a security firm to watch overthe property during the night for an estimated $60,000 per year.The empty facility is expected to require $58,000 per year forutility bills.

A draft copy of the Reduction in Force letter attached to theplan states the reason for MAC’s possible closure as financial.

“The Mississippi Adolescent Center is not accredited or eligibleat present to receive reimbursement by third party payers (such asMedicaid), thus cannot offset the cost of its operation,” theletter reads.

Perkins, however, believes the plan is flawed. With more budgetshortfalls expected for state agencies next year, saving $5 millionin the mental health department’s more than $630 million budget isinconsequential, he said. He pointed out that some DMH facilitiesoperate with budgets five times greater than that of MAC.

“Sure, this would save $5 million, but it’s not going to solvethe financial problem the state has,” he said. “This is not ashort-term problem.”