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New report critical of DHHS spending

Posted August 20, 2008

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— More than two years after the state began privatizing the mental health system, a new legislative report out Wednesday criticizes how the Department of Health and Human Services handled the implementation.

The report, the result of a five-month study, found DHHS had no controls in place when it began privatizing the mental health system and never established goals or benchmarks. Nor did it adequately forecast costs or have appropriate planning and communication, the authors said.

As a result, the system was abused, and the agency spent millions of dollars more a year – sometimes up to 200 percent – than anticipated.

For example, monthly expenditures for children and adolescents grew from $4.5 million in April 2006 to $61.8 million in February 2007.

The report was presented Wednesday to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

"It appears to me that some of these decisions almost rise to the level of being criminal, Co-Chariman Rep. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg, said. "And looking at this report is almost like looking at crime-scene photos. I mean, it's gory."

The Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services became aware of the spike in costs in Fall 2006, months after introducing the changes.

The report said the division immediately took steps to reduce costs, for example, by putting a freeze on new providers and redefining service definitions, as well as recouping payments.

An audit of 167 providers and a review of 12,000 records found 36 percent of community support services were not medically necessary. Another 53 percent were not authorized at the appropriate level.

Leza Wainwright, co-director of the division, says the cost of community support services is now 30 percent lower than it was last August.

The committee authorized its staff to begin drafting legislation that would address the issues in the report. That should come out sometime later this year.

The report also recommended that DHHS re-evaluate its current data and reporting processes so that its executives can readily identify key issues and respond purposively.


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  • jfwolfinger Aug 20, 2008

    As a mother, and one who cares deeply for the welfare of my clients, I have seen the suffering of those negotiating the burden of a mental illness, a society who does not understand or accept them, and now abandonment by the "healthcare" system.
    Community Support Services have been an essential part of my son’s support plan to maintain levels of wellness (his worker is well qualified to administer therapeutic interventions). In the recent battle to retain my son’s services, I have spoken with representatives of this travesty called the mental health system who have revealed themselves as little more than animated adding machines. They do not care about our loved ones. They care about how much money they cost. Instead of taking services away, they should require stringent hiring policies of qualified personnel, and that consumers are substantially in need of the service.
    Who are these unqualified people who are making decisions that are devastating people’s lives? They are certa

  • jfwolfinger Aug 20, 2008

    As a healthcare worker and mother of one suffering with serious mental illness, I am appalled at the state of mental health care. upon hearing of the privatization of mental health care I knew agencies would open and hire non-qualified people to work with people who need qualified care to help them improve and maintain functionality in society. I gave the state 5 yrs to realize people with mental illnesses were being harmed by poor services, look back, and say "oops." Two years later, instead of assuring proper care, the state is cutting services leaving people to begin a tragic loop of crisis, costing tax payers more money than the state claims they will save. The state has offered 8 hours a week of temporary Community Support Services, abandoning those who were improving under everyday care. Breadwinners will have to stay home to care for their loved ones. More people will depend on state funds to live. Hospitalizations and arrests will increase, costing even more money. As a mother,

  • catwoman1 Aug 20, 2008

    Well, as a former employee of one of these mental health agencies that took DHHS for a ride, it's about time someone stepped up and took the bull by the horns. Notice I said FORMER employee. I quit because insurance fraud carries stiff penalties and I have a conscience.

  • teacher-mom Aug 20, 2008

    I do not know what everyone else did but there was something that was done right. Thereis a program or agency called PORT that deals with substance abuse problems. I was impressed with them. Their fee is based on income and they are very professional. They make an appointment for the patient promptly. You are treated with respect. I like them.

  • teacher-mom Aug 20, 2008

    From what I can see the state needs to focus on substance abuse. I feel sorry for people who have mental health issues. It never gets better. The problem is how to keep them on their medication. It has to be frustrating for all involved.

  • SailbadTheSinner Aug 20, 2008

    Each time I read one of these reports I’m reminded of just how much easier it is for someone to criticize than to actually do something themselves ....


  • lilwil Aug 20, 2008

    The only thing Government agencies do is use taxpayers money for their own personal benefits (gifts, vacations, etc.) not on those it is intended to help...

    This goes on so long and strange how when they are found out, those at the top act as if they have amnesia, act so shocking this has gone on under their nose. Please, give me a break, they are well aware. Maybe their heads should roll and give them something to think about while standing in the unemployment line.

  • Adelinthe Aug 20, 2008

    "It appears to me that some of these decisions almost rise to the level of being criminal, committee Co-Chairman Rep. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg, said. "And looking at this report is almost like looking at crime scene photos. I mean, it's gory."

    What a surprise!

    And to those who think sitting with someone watching tv or doing their dishes or taking them to Wal*Mart isn't providing care, think again. Sometimes that's the only human contact that person might otherwise have, and the care they're receiving, regardless of what it is, has been approved by a government agency.

    The problem comes when that agency doesn't watchdog itself and its employees. It's not with those who say they need the care.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • PaulRevere Aug 20, 2008

    I'm anxiously awaiting a joint statement from Easley and Perdue about how none of this is their fault eventhough they claim they can fix every other ill anyone has ever had.

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Aug 20, 2008

    I see applicants who have worked for these agencies that spent 4 hrs aday watching tv with clients. The clients are people they went out and found for the agency. One washes dishes for a lady who simply doen't want to do her dishes. One goes to Walmart everyday with a client to give them something to do.
    These care givers are paid 8-10 per hr. and I assume the agency makes something. Think what all this cost the tax payers.
    It almost as sad as SmartStart... Simply a political organization for election years. And by goly its been working since Jim Hunt started this mess.