MAC fate rests with Medicaid check

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 3, 2010

A federal and state inspection team that will determine whetherBrookhaven’s largest mental health facility qualifies for Medicaidreimbursement is due in town in the coming weeks, and theirfindings could decide the institution’s future.

Shirley Miller, director of the Mississippi Adolescent Center, toldemployees during an appreciation ceremony Friday afternoon thatrepresentatives from the Mississippi State Department of Health andthe federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would tourthe facility sometime after Oct. 15, kicking over every rock to seeif MAC can be certified as an intermediate care facility forpersons with mental retardation.

The certification would allow MAC to bill Medicaid for itsservices, drawing on the agency’s three-to-one matching rate tohelp alleviate its annually shrinking budget. MAC’s funding hasfallen from $5 million to $3.9 million over the last two years asstate revenues have decreased during the recession, and plans forclosing the facility have been drafted and placed on file.

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“Without this licensure, we will not be in existence,” Miller said.”It’s imperative we get this license and start billing Medicaid sowe can continue to be a productive part of this community.”

Miller said the team would look first and foremost at MAC’streatment of its adolescent male clients to make sure theirdisabilities are appropriate for the kind of rehabilitation thefacility offers, and that rehab is being properly delivered. Thefacility’s nursing techniques and educational methods will bescrutinized.

The team will also inspect MAC’s physical plant, reviewing thefacility’s heating and cooling, lighting, electricity, water supplyand numerous other utilities that must be properly managed to meetrequirements of the Life Safety Code.

One of the biggest barriers to MAC passing the physical plant testhas already been removed – an 8-foot security fence topped withbarbed wire that gave the facility a “correctional” look.

“That fence was one of the reasons this facility failed the firsttime it asked for ICF/MR certification,” said Miller, who added thefence also played a part in local misconceptions about MAC’smission.

If MAC passes the test and is granted licensure to bill Medicaid,the approval would allow the facility’s state funding to be cut inhalf, saving the Mississippi Department of Mental Health around $2million while increasing MAC’s budget to $6 million with thethree-to-one reimbursement.

MAC is one of a handful of mental health facilities that operatesentirely on state funding, with no reimbursements to shore up itsbudget. It has long been the target for budget cuts – one of thefacility’s three dormitories was closed and 16 employees let goearlier this year to make the reduced funding amount work.

MAC’s workforce has fallen from more than 90 to 72.

“All of the facilities that are 100 percent general fund – if wecan’t get the money, we’ll have to close. I think it’s come down tothat,” Miller said. “The governor’s budget (recommendation) lastyear took us out altogether, and we’ve got even less moneynow.”

Miller said she expects “99.9 percent” of MAC to pass theinspection, adding the facility can do a plan of correction ifanything is found wanting. She hopes MAC will be licensed and ableto bill Medicaid by January.