L.A. COUNTY: Board Delays Shifting Mental Health Plan
Los Angeles County supervisors voted yesterday to delay restructuring of the new Human Services Agency until it devises "a way to legally shift control of the mental health services department from the county hospital to welfare officials." Supervisor John Flynn said, "We had no choice. Our decision was based on a letter from the federal government that said they wouldn't accept the arrangement we had proposed" (Metcalfe, Los Angeles Times, 9/23). The county voted five months ago to merge behavioral health and welfare services into the new HSA, but federal health officials told the county last week that its plan was illegal and that it "could lose between $11 million and $15 million a year in Medicare and Medi-Cal payments for treating mental patients" if it went through with the reconstruction. The Health Care Financing Administration officials said the shift to the Los Angeles County-regulated HSA was illegal because "the county's license to provide mental health services is tied to Ventura County Medical Center" (Kelley, Los Angeles Times, 9/22).
The board will revisit the issue at its Oct. 13 meeting. In the meantime, Flynn said supervisors would look into new ways to legally shift the departments. "What I want to know from the federal government is what's possible," he said. "The next step is to meet with (federal officials) to see if the board's plan and their requirements can be satisfied in any way," said county counsel Jim McBride. "There are other models out there, but it's finding one that meets all those requirements that has to be done now," McBride said (Los Angeles Times, 9/23).