MENTAL HEALTH: Feds Threaten Funds For Superagency
A top official from Ventura County's Human Services Agency called for "urgent action" today in response to Monday's notice from federal regulators that the agency could lose up to $15 million in funds if it does not bring its organizational structure into compliance with federal rules. In a fax sent Monday, federal health care administrator Janice Caldwell charged that the superagency formed last April by a merger of the mental health and welfare services departments does not maintain "a direct line of authority ... between Ventura County Medical Center and doctors at the county's mental health unit." Moreover, Caldwell warned that the agency may have to return up to $2 million in federal health care reimbursements received since the merger. County Chief Administrator Lin Koester plans to ask the agency's Board of Supervisors today to reverse the merger until the legal issues are resolved. But Supervisor Susan Lacey, a proponent of the merger, hopes instead to "rearrange the system a bit" to preserve the partnership. She said "the objective all along has been to avoid placing mentally ill people in the hospital and instead move toward helping them learn to live independently ... the team approach would better serve the mentally ill." Caldwell said federal regulators would "wait to see what happens at today's meeting before taking further action" (Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 12/22). Click here for previous California Healthline coverage of the merger.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.