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Mental health board makes budget cuts

September 13, 2009
The Alpena News

The Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority Board approved a preliminary budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, slated to begin Oct. 1, with cuts to be expected. The board approved the $23 million budget, a 2.6 percent reduction from last year, in a 10-0 vote Thursday evening with at least a 12 percent cut in funding to be expected by the state.

Director Tony White said the budget takes the 12 percent cut into account and in order to balance it, the agency has made preliminary plans to reduce employee wages or salaries and benefits by 5 percent.

In July, the state would be cutting 12 percent from its general fund during the 2008-09 fiscal year. To account for the cuts, the agency laid off two full-time and three part-time employees and implemented 10 furlough days - the equivalent of a two week layoff - for all employees which have been taken every other Friday since May 15.

"Some of our employees may do furlough days again, for others we'll probably have to adjust to a wage reduction of some kind but we have yet to work out any details there," he said.

Cuts in the preliminary budget also will affect mental health patients who are uninsured. Because of cuts the state has made to its general fund, NEMCMH has had to put those who don't have Medicaid on a waiting list, pending their needs aren't an emergency.

"We've never had to establish a waiting list before," he said. "This is a first for us and we hate to do it because these are people who have come in with a mental health need - we've screened them and found that indeed they do have a serious mental illness - but for the lack of money we just cannot provide the service."

Patients without Medicaid can expect services to be restructured so they are less expansive this upcoming fiscal year so the agency will be able to provide services to individuals the whole year. NEMCMH provides services to 2,500 people during the course of a year, 700-800 of whom don't have Medicaid or any other insurance coverage, according to White. He said he expects the individuals to be on the waiting list until the end of September.

"Effective Oct. 1 we expect to be able to serve those people that we've put on the waiting list and we hope that we don't have to put others on the waiting list because we will have reduced the services that we will provide to them to a shorter duration so it would all fit within our reduced budget," he said.

White wants to assure people that if they have a mental health emergency, their needs will be met.

Although the agency has anticipated a 12 percent cut for the fiscal year, White said there are other plans in the legislature that could bump it up to 20 percent and there is even a plan that would cut it 57 percent, "which would just be devistating."

"The budget that was approved was labeled a preliminary. We legally have to have one in place so that's what it did," he said.

Crystal Nelson can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5693.



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