Cuts have MAC mulling unit closure

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Officials with Brookhaven’s MississippiAdolescent Center are considering closing one of the facility’sthree housing units after losing a projected $100,000 through statebudget cuts.

             MAC Director Shirley Millersaid closing one of the three 16-bed dormitories could save around$600,000 in travel, commodities and utilities.

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            None of the facility’s 34clients would be released as a result of the closure, she said, buthousing would become more cramped. Future growth could be limitedby the closure, with maximum capacity dropping from 48 to 32.

             “If we can keep our clientsspread out they can have a room to themselves instead of two to aroom. Everybody likes to have their own room,” Miller said. “Whatwe’re trying to do right now is shave some money off so we can giveour clients the best services.”

             The Mississippi Departmentof Mental Health was hit by Gov. Haley Barbour with an 8.1 percentbudget cut last week, resulting in the approximately $100,000 lossfor MAC. The facility lost a further $100,000 during previousbudget cuts and has seen its fiscal year 2010 budget fall from $4.6million to $4.4 million. The total is down $600,000 — the amountMAC is trying to save — from its original $5 million budget.

             DMH is also consideringclosing two facilities at the Mississippi State Hospital inreaction to the cuts.

             Miller said MAC is adjustingas needed to ensure its survival after Barbour targeted it andapproximately a dozen other mental health facilities for closure inexecutive budget recommendations last November. A potential plan toclose the facility and transfer all its patients out was developedby the state board of mental health last year.

             One reason MAC is always inthe crosshairs of budget reductions is because it operates entirelyon general funds from the department of mental health and is unableto draw down reimbursements.

             Less than six months intoher tenure, Miller is working to change that.

            She said MAC is workingtoward designation as an ICF/MR — an Intermediate Care Facility forPersons with Mental Retardation — that would allow it to draw downMedicaid reimbursements. A shift in the nature of MAC’s clientelecould allow such a designation, she said.

             “A lot of our clients nowhave intellectual disabilities, are low functioning and some haveautism. The diagnosis of the individuals here indicate if you cando that,” Miller said.

             If MAC were designated anICF/MR facility, Miller said it would need only the necessaryMedicaid matching funds to operate, which should lower thefacility’s budget needs significantly.

             “We’re working on gettingour programming the way Medicaid wants, to have everything Medicaidneeds,” she said.

             In the meantime, optionslike closing a dorm should prevent the release of clients and thelaying off of workers, Miller said.

             “Keep your fingers crossed.Hopefully, we won’t have to,” she said.