MAC still in danger of closure

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Brookhaven mental health facility remains in danger of closureunless extra funding is found somehow, somewhere.

Mississippi Adolescent Center Director Shirley Miller said theinstitution remains on the chopping block for 2011 unless theMississippi Department of Mental Health is appropriated anadditional $37 million by the Legislature next year. Miller andother department officials and legislators addressed thepossibility last night during a presentation at Newton High Schoolin Newton, called together by the supporters of that city’s CentralMississippi Residential Center, which could also be closed to meetbudget demands.

“We’re still fighting every day and trying to keep it in thepublic’s eye,” Miller said. “If we don’t have the money, there isgoing to have be some closures made. We can’t fund theservices.”

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Two more facilities facing the guillotine are the South MississippiState Hospital in Purvis and the North Mississippi State Hospitalin Tupelo. All four facilities were funded at $37.5 million in thisyear’s appropriation bill before cuts were made.

Brookhaven’s MAC would be fully funded at around $5 million, butthe facility is currently operating on $3.9 million after twoyears’ of reductions. The center released approximately 20 percentof its workforce and closed down one of its three dormitoriesearlier this year, and the State Board of Mental Health has a planon file in case MAC has to shut down completely.

MAC and its sister facilities are consistent targets for reductionsbecause they receive 100 percent of their funding straight from thedepartment of mental health’s budget with no reimbursementassistance.

Miller and her staff are working to gain such assistance fromMedicaid by qualifying the center as an intermediate care facilityfor persons with mental retardation. The certification would allowMAC to bill Medicaid for its services and draw down from thatagency’s three-to-one matching rate.

Miller estimates MAC would need only half its current budget -about $2 million – to operate if the facility becomes certified forMedicaid.

But MAC could be racing the clock. The 2011 Legislative Sessionbegins in early January, and the fiscal year 2012 budget lawmakerswill craft is expected to be even harder-hit than this year’sspending plan, which fell by around $500 million.

The site inspectors from the Mississippi State Department of Healthand the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services areexpected to arrive only “sometime after Nov. 1,” Miller said.

“We hope they walk in the door. We’re ready to go,” she said.