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New license improves MAC funding future

The future of a Brookhaven mental health facility appearsbrighter following licensing approval that will reduce reliance onstate funding, its director said Wednesday.

Mississippi Adolescent Center director Shirley Miller said thefacility on Brookman Drive Extension has been approved for anIntermediate Care Facility/Mentally Retarded (ICF/MR) license bythe Mississippi Department of Health. Official word of the licensecame last Thursday.

“That’s been my main focus since arriving in town,” said Miller,who’s been in her position around 18 months.

License approval is significant because it will allow MAC toreceive funding from Medicaid, a federal-state health care program.Previously, the facility was dependent on 100 percent of itsoperational funds coming from the state’s general fund, a fact thatput it in danger of closure during recent difficult budgettimes.

With Medicaid’s 3-1 match on a federal-state basis, Millerestimated savings to the state of around $2 million. She said MACis awaiting final approval from Medicaid as a service provider,which she expected any day now.

“We’ve sent everything they asked for,” Miller said.

Miller said MAC’s preliminary budget for 2012 is $3.4 million.Saving $2 million in state funds could assist another mental healthfacility in the state.

“That probably would plug a shortfall that some other facility mayhave had,” Miller said.

For MAC, the license means a more secure future for its 65full-time employees and the possibility of a return to fulloperations. Amid budget concerns last year, MAC closed one of itsthree dorms and 16 employees were let go.

“We would like to reopen that dorm,” Miller said. “This will giveus some flexibility to serve more kids.”

With the dorm reopened, MAC could serve up to 48 young people ages13-18. Patients can stay up to age 21.

Miller said the agency could add 15 or 16 employees, but could notdo so until after July 1. That is the start of state’s new fiscalyear.

Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Chamber of Commerce, said word of MAC’s licensing was”welcome news” for its employees and the community.

“We’re very pleased to hear that the jobs there now look secure andthat there may be the possibility of additional jobs in thefuture,” said Brumfield, while also addressing the facility’shealth care and economic impact on the area. “Their services arevaluable to our community.”

The mental health care facility began in Brookhaven in 1999 as theJuvenile Rehabilitation Facility. Its mission then was to acceptyoung people with mental health issues who were ordered there bythe court.

“It’s been a part of the community. We’ve grown and changed,”Miller said.

Now, MAC does not have any court-ordered clients. Rather, it treatspatients who have been placed there by parents who recognized aneed for residential mental health care for their children.

Miller said MAC includes a great staff that is committed to caringfor the clients and serving the community.

“That’s made all the difference in the world,” Miller said.