Health and Human Services seeing bills climb

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mower County Health and Human Services is continuing to see hefty bills after a Minnesota Department of Human Services cost shift.

Val Kruger, fiscal supervisor for Mower County Health and Human Services, and Director Lisa Kocer updated the county board Tuesday about the hefty bills the county is receiving from a few residents placed at state facilities in need of a high level of care and services.

Due to a cost of care shift, counties are now billed for 100 percent of care once a facility determines a patient no longer needs “hospital level care,” according to Kocer. Still, the patients often need 24-hour care, but there are few long-term beds available, and even those can be hard to come by because of behavioral issues.

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That’s leaving Mower County racking up hefty bills.

This year, Kruger said the change has meant for $200,000 to $300,000 — almost $175,000 from one person.

“I don’t see this issue going away,” Kruger said. “It’s like every month when I get this bill, there’s somebody who’s not meeting the level of care, and it’s very difficult finding placement for these folks, because their needs are so great.”

Commissioner Tim Gabrielson urged staff to reach out and speak out to the state.

“We can’t shoulder that,” he said.

However, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson argued it’s an issue that should be brought up with Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature.

Tuesday’s discussion was the second time this year the board and staff spoke out about spiking costs from state cost shifts, as state facilities bill counties once a placement is not deemed clinically appropriate, despite the lack of beds for needed placements.

In the first discussion in June, Kocer noted that Gov. Mark Dayton created a task force on mental health in April, and she hoped it would address some of these issues. However, the county is still facing the spike in costs.

In April, Dayton said too many Minnesotans go for too long to get mental health care. More than 200,000 adults and 75,000 children in the state live with mental illness, and people wait an average of 10 years before seeking treatment.

The governor directed the task force to come up with recommendations for caring for Minnesotans with mental illness, including new policies, legislative changes and funding.

The task force will report back to Dayton and the Legislature by the end of this month.
—The Associated Press contributed to report.