CMH lays off staff due to budget cuts.

May 15, 2015

IMG_4306By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — A drop in funding has meant that the administration at West Michigan Community Mental Health (WMCMH) has had to make some tough choices recently. The most recent choices have involved the reduction of personnel but not a reduction in service, according to the agency’s director.

“We have seen two consecutive years of Medicaid reductions, which has had a major impact on our budget,” Dr. Lisa Hotovy, executive director of WMCMH said. The funding reductions have meant WMCMH has had to cut $800,000 from its annual $21 million budget.

“We have made every attempt to restructure other areas of the agency without impacting jobs,” Hotovy said. “We reached a point, though, where we could not avoid the staff reductions.”

Hotovy stressed that the agency has made efforts to assure that clients (known as consumers in the mental health industry) would not be impacted and that services would remain at the same level.

WMCMH provides mental health services to Mason, Oceana and Lake counties. It is overseen by a 12 person board, with five representatives from Mason, five from Oceana and two from Lake; each are appointed by the respective county commissions. The agency is funded mainly by the state based on the number of Medicaid recipients in its region. Hotovy said that number has reduced in the past six months. However, the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in need of mental health services has increased.

“We have been preparing for the budget reductions and have studied a lot of other community mental health agencies around the state, especially those that service population sizes similar to us,” Hotovy said. “What we found was that there were agencies that were providing the same level of services as us at reduced costs and reduced staff. We chose to follow a similar operating model.”

Hotovy said the WMCMH first made the step of reducing seven staff positions by not replacing employees who had either retired or resigned. That took place over the past 1.5 years.

Earlier this week, two non-union supervisory positions and 1.5 union positions were eliminated.  Hotovy said through the restructuring some job positions were changed and union employees had the opportunity to take on different positions in the agency based on seniority and qualifications.

“This has been hard for us,” Hotovy said. “It’s hard to think about our team members not being here, and it’s especially hard for those folks who have been impacted.”

Hotovy said most consumers will notice little impact in the staff reductions. She said one summer youth program has been eliminated, mainly because it was supported by a grant that has now expired. “We do have some consumers who have been clinically stable for a long time and who receive only medication services from us. They perhaps see a psychiatrist perhaps once every three months. We are working with them to either receive additional services from us if needed, or to seeing if their primary care physicians can provide medications. This is a very small portion of our consumers, though.”

Hotovy said budget cuts may not be over. There is a likelihood that the agency may face more cuts at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which will be October 1. At that time, the agency may see $800,000 additional reduction in budget.

She said the funding issues come down to a funding system that needs to be restructured. Hotovy said CMH agencies have provided suggestions to state officials and legislators and continue to work with them to propose alternative funding methods.

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