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Mental health centers avert funding crisis

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The Mississippi Department of Mental Health has agreed to pay half the cost of Medicaid matching funds to help the state’s 15 community mental health centers through June 2012.

Officials feared the community centers may close because they didn’t have funds for the state’s share of the match to pull down federal funds to treat Medicaid recipients.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that Medicaid officials contended that if a Medicaid recipient receives similar care for a mental illness from a private provider, whether from a doctor or a hospital, the state and the federal government pay for the treatment.

If a Medicaid recipient goes to a community center for treatment, the federal government pays, and the state doesn’t, officials said.

In the past, the MDMH has paid most of the state’s share to treat Medicaid recipients at the centers. A funding shortfall had made that impossible, mental health officials have said.

Under the agreement, the MDMH and the centers will each pay 50 percent of the expected $28 million to $30 million needed for the current fiscal year and for the next, which ends June 30, 2012, to draw down federal Medicaid funds.

The MSMH paid $12 million toward the match for the past year.

“I am thrilled we are maintaining our system of community mental health centers,” said House Public Health Committee chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.

“I also feel strongly the state is not meeting its obligation toward the centers. I think they are meeting us more than halfway.”

The community mental health centers operate independently and serve people dealing with mental illness, drug addictions and other mental disabilities.

The MDMH also contracts with the centers to provide community-based treatments, including to people who have been discharged from state mental health hospitals.

The centers receive funding from a tax levy in the counties in their service region. The centers treat people regardless of their ability to pay.

Officials said 80 percent of the centers’ total revenue is from treating Medicaid-eligible patients.

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