Southwest Mississippi Mental Health District 11 Director Warns Counties at Risk of Federal Funds, Jobs, Services Approval of Recommended State Plan
Posted Tue, Apr 18, 2023 11:30am
NATCHEZ — A director of Southwest Mississippi Mental Health District 11 told the Adams County Board of Supervisors Monday that bisecting the district would put millions in federal grants, programs and jobs at risk.
In addition, Margo Brooks, director of administrative services, management information systems, compliance and human resources, said breaking up the region could also mean that the individual counties that make up the region will be responsible for repaying millions in federal grant funds.
The issue stems from a 2016 Justice Department lawsuit against the state of Mississippi. In 2019, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled that Mississippi communities did not have adequate resources to treat mental illness and thus violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As part of the lawsuit, Mississippi created a Mental Health Accessibility Panel to evaluate mental health services. Adams County is currently part of the nine-county group that makes up the District 11 Community Mental Health Center.
Mental Health Accessibility Team Coordinator Bill Rosamond spoke with Adams County supervisors on February 22, 2022 and told them that District 11 does not have enough operating funds to maintain needed mental health services, And the provision of mental health services is inconsistent within the nine counties.
Adams County Attorney Scott Slover said much of District 11’s problems are believed to stem from underbilling for services provided.
As a solution, the Mental Health Accessibility Group recommends separating the 9-county District 11 from Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson, and Wilkinson counties, and joining District 15 for the Vicksburg and Yazoo City areas and the remaining counties— Amit, Franklin, Lawrence, Pike and Walsall join District 12.
“The 11th District has been financially insolvent for a very long time since before Bill Rosamond came along. The state has been monitoring the district,” Slover said.
“While services have improved in District 11, the financial health of the area has not,” he said. “Inappropriate billing is believed to be the cause of this. Breaking up the 11th district and dividing the counties into two other districts that do the right thing — direct billing districts — should fix this.”
One concern about the split is what will happen to the federal funding that the District 11 currently relies heavily on. Slover said he and regulators have asked about the possibility of federal money “recovery,” meaning whether the counties that make up the district would have to pay back federal funds awarded to the district.
“Bill and his team told us it wasn’t a problem,” Slover said.
However, the 11th District has received more than $13 million in federal funding over the past two years, Brooks said Monday. The distribution of these federal grants covers the entire nine-county area, she said. If the district breaks up, it will no longer meet the guidelines for the federal funding it receives.
“If the three appropriations are not met, the federal government could step in and do an audit and likely demand some money back, creating a huge deficit,” Brooks said.
One of the problems, she said, was mismanagement.
“Fix management issues, but don’t put at greater risk the people served by the 14 stations operated by Region 11 within more than 4,000 miles of some of the poorest rural communities or more than 120 employees,” Brooks said.
Slover said he wasn’t sure whether Brooks’ information was correct or how the district divisions were explained to her.
“Anytime you’re merging or changing organizations, if you do it right, there’s an end period,” Slover said after the meeting. “If we’re going to change tissue, you want to keep doing that. The sooner you stop the bleeding, the better.”
He said he planned to meet with Brooks and learn more from the information she had.
“During that winding down period, you’re going to lose some of your grant proceeds. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Most of your money comes from Medicaid and Medicare charges for services. If billed properly, more than half of your The money comes from that,” he said. “The state doesn’t want us to lose any of the mental health services that we provide. The state is very keen to keep them, so while we may lose some temporarily, we will rebuild them appropriately and provide more longer term services. I mainly The concern is making sure the kickbacks are dealt with.”
Adams and Pike counties, the largest counties in District 11, would not have happened had they chosen not to separate, Brooks said. However, she said Pike County supervisors voted Friday to join District 12.
Adams County has yet to vote on the matter and has not set a date for it to be discussed at a meeting.