Riverside County Moves To Drop Out of State Mental Health Plan
On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a measure that sets the stage for the county to stop participating in the Medi-Cal Mental Health Plan if the state does not provide enough funds to cover the cost of care, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The program covers psychiatric, counseling and case management services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
The measure directed the county mental health director to inform the state that Riverside County might withdraw from the program, leaving the state to find a new administrator of the program in Riverside County or assume responsibility for the program.
The state Legislature in February approved at least $638 million in cuts to Medi-Cal programs through June 2009, but a loss of matching federal funds will push the total loss to Medi-Cal beyond $1.2 billion. Mental health services will lose about $70 million from the state cuts to Medi-Cal.
Jerry Wengerd, the county's mental health director, said $16.5 million of the department's budget now comes from the county general fund, up from $1.8 million in 2000. In the face of an additional loss of state funds, Wengerd said the department's only option is to reduce services or seek additional money from the county.
Wengerd said the department treats about 32,000 patients annually. About half are eligible for Medi-Cal.
Wengerd said the move would not necessarily restrict treatment options for residents but could make it more challenging for those seeking care.
Wengerd added that he sees the motion as a means of kicking off negotiations with the state over funding for Medi-Cal services.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Mental Health did not respond to requests for comment, the Press-Enterprise reports.
At least two other counties -- Glenn and Shasta -- have discussed withdrawing from the Medi-Cal mental health program (Gang, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/1).