Archived Story

County to add mental health provider

Published 10:25am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Mower County Board of Commissioners is easing the county’s changes to adult mental health case management providers after the county announced a provider cut from six to two in January.

The board decided Tuesday to add Quality Case Management Inc. as a third case management provider for up to 200 residents who receive mental health services in the county. They also directed Health and Human Services staff to contact the 54 mental health patients and vulnerable adults who switched providers, as well as the 30 patients who have closed their cases, to give them another option.

“This is the biggest transition we have ever made,” Lindsay Brekke, Social Services Supervisor, said during the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The county cut case management providers for Mower County residents who get mental health services from six to two earlier this year after a review process which started last November, and the decision goes into effect March 1. The decision caused immediate concern among patients, however.

County officials say the move followed legislative recommendations to reform health care services and to enhance service quality for Mower residents, but many who receive mental health services are concerned with the move. Case managers essentially coordinate a team of specialists to help mental health patients, and a switch in case management could disrupt the routine and set patient care back, according to Ronnie Rosenberger, an Austin resident who receives mental health services from Mower County.

On Feb. 11, the board received a petition signed by about 72 mental health patients asking the board to keep case management services as is. The board’s finance committee met last week to discuss the issue, and spent more than 25 minutes Tuesday discussing it during a board meeting recess.

The transition hasn’t been a smooth process, however. Several patients took the board and county staff to task Tuesday after county officials contacted some patients last week about their new providers. County officials told patients one particular case management company was no longer accepting clients and urged them to sign up with the other service, which patients said basically eliminated any choice they had in their care. Some patients called their preferred provider and eventually did get their choice, but they say the county’s backpedaling has caused a lot of confusion.

“I’m very frustrated,” said Elmer Ferguson.

Brekke told residents at the meeting the county had helped facilitate transitions after a provider told county officials they were close to capacity.

Still, the process has left not only patients but case managers frustrated with the results.

“This thing has gone much too far in the wrong direction,” Rowland Halverson, a local case manager, told the board.

Rosenberger also told the board she and other patients felt like they weren’t getting their concerns heard. She and other patients previously asked the board to let residents keep their case managers, or at least give patients more time to transition. She hasn’t been contacted by county officials concerning the transition yet, but she said she has already submitted her provider preferences.

“I feel like we’re getting steamrolled,” she said. She later commended the board’s decision, though she said there are still transition concerns among patients that need to be addressed.

Quality Case Management, Inc., has until March 31 to comply with state statute and county recommendations or lose the county contract, according to County Commissioner Polly Glynn. That doesn’t change the timeline for patients, however, according to Health and Human Services Director Julie Stevermer. Patients will be able to switch providers after March 1.

County officials say 48 patients have kept their case managers through the process, as those case managers were hired by the two companies under contract with the county. Thirty patients closed their cases since the county announced the switch. About 16 residents will receive case management services through the county, and 54 have had to switch case managers altogether. Only one patient has moved to another county to get services, according to Glynn.

 — Jason Schoonover contributed to this report.


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