Joco 913

Joco mental health center needs bailout, but is making improvement

FILE PHOTO

The financial outlook for the Johnson County Mental Health Center has improved over the past year, but not quite enough to avoid another end-of-the-year bailout from the county’s general fund reserves.

The problem is cash flow, said county budget director Scott Neufeld and mental health executive director Tim DeWeese. New billing software and changes brought about by KanCare have caused reimbursements to be delayed, they said. Now, as the fiscal year ends and books must be balanced, the center may need from $200,000 to $500,000 to tide it over until that money is paid in 2016.

The commission unanimously voted to approve cash infusions as they may be needed to ensure a positive balance.

The mental health center was in deeper budget trouble a year ago. At that time the commission bailed it out with about $520,000 to keep it solvent.

Since then the governing board was disbanded by the county commission, who took over those responsibilities and appointed a new advisory board. They also hired a DeWeese as the new executive director.

The center has seen improved productivity during the past year, but the amount of money in outstanding bills has gone up. Some commissioners expressed frustration with that.

“It seems to me there’s an immediacy to collecting those outstanding billings that needs to be moved to the top of the agenda,” said Chairman Ed Eilert.

Commissioner Steve Klika worried that the $298,000 of the $1.9 million estimated debt that was outstanding for at least 120 days might never be collected. “This item really is kind of frustrating to me because it articulates how deep the challenges are in this department,” Klika said.

Eilert pointed out that much of those outstanding payments were likely to be made because they come from government payers.

Neufeld said the year has been difficult for mental health because an extremely tight budget left no margin for error.

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