Johnson County government might not have to pay quite as much as expected to balance the mental health center’s books for 2013.
By ROXIE HAMMILL
Special to The Star
County officials had earlier estimated that as much as $1 million might be needed to keep the center from going into the red. But as the books close on 2013, it now looks like the final total may not be that high.
Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson, who is temporarily overseeing the center’s operations, told the county commission last week that so far two payments have been made to set things right in the cash-strapped department. To date, the county has bailed the center out with $520,911. One more payment is expected before the books can be considered closed, Thompson said. He had no estimate on how much that transfer might be, but said the total bailout may come in under $1 million.
The mental health department ran into trouble last year as the result of a complex set of issues. The center was not billing for enough in income to pay for its expenses because of the loss of several caseworkers who could generate billable income from patients or their insurance companies. The center sees people with serious mental illness, such as bipolar illness and schizophrenia, and many of its clients are among the county’s poor.
As income steadily dropped, the county commission was informed that the center would overrun its budget and would need a bailout from other county funds.
In the aftermath, the executive director resigned and the commission voted to disband the department’s governing board — a decision that has been the source of controversy.
The commission is scheduled to discuss mental health issues Thursday when it considers a list of candidates for a new mental health advisory board to review policy and keep the center connected with the community.
A subcommittee of the commission will submit 13 names to be considered for the new advisory board. They would serve three-year staggered terms.
Past mental health board members have been appointed by individual commissioners. Commissioner Steve Klika said he hopes the commission will return to that arrangement after the new board is up and running.
In the meantime, the list includes: Former Roeland Park City Councilman Roger Cooper, co-founder of Maranatha Academy; Robert Drummond, Olathe, president and CEO of Kids TLC and a licensed marriage and family therapist; Jane Fletcher, fiscal officer of Harvest America Corp., who has a family member who has been a patient at the center; Erin George, Olathe, director of operations and corporate sales at Abco Supply and a previous employee at the center; Johnson County District Judge Michael Joyce; Janice Love, co-founder Step in Love, a counseling service for blended families; Stella Obi, Leawood, director of nursing at Highland Rehabilitation Center in Kansas City; Marilyn Scafe, private contractor for Kansas Corrections Department; Michael Seitz, Overland Park, executive of Keystone Futures consulting services; Brenda Sharpe, Overland Park, president and CEO of REACH Healthcare Foundation; Kyle Shipps, Prairie Village police officer and former member Johnson County Mental Health Task Force; Benjamin Tschudy, Leawood attorney; Jason Wesco, president and CEO Health Partnership.
The board also will consider whether to approve a new home for the county’s weekend intervention and alcohol and drug safety program.
The program, which requires substance abuse education and 48 hours of imprisonment for first- and second-offenders, has been at the Adult Residential Center near New Century Airport since 1997. Participants pay $350 for the program, which is run by a private contractor.
The mobile pre-fabricated building, one of four at the residential center, has moisture problems and is over 20 years old, said Betsy Gillespie, director of county corrections. The county plans to demolish it because it will cost too much to make the needed updates. Relocating the program will allow the county to free up jail space at the remaining buildings, she said.
The planned new location is 12680 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Shawnee, the former Heart of America Research building. The program’s operator, Leslie Sewester of A Connecting Pointe in Olathe, said there would be around 30 participants at the site one weekend per month. Other municipalities, including Overland Park, also send participants to the facility.
Gillespie assured the commission that the relocation would not require any extra county funds.