Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agencies Unite to Ensure Survival

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agencies Unite to Ensure Survival

Article excerpt

The two non-profit agencies that provide the bulk of emergency

mental health care to Jacksonville's poor have united in an

effort to safeguard their future, agency officials say.

Mental Health Center of Jacksonville affiliated with

Renaissance Behavioral Health Systems on March 1, said Robert

Sommers, president and chief operating officer of Renaissance.

"This is a way to preserve what services we have," he said.

The union comes after both agencies have felt the sharp bite of

the state's budget ax.

During the last several years, millions of dollars have been

trimmed from both agencies' balance sheet as Tallahassee

lawmakers put a lid on Medicaid costs and pared funding for

emergency mental health services, Sommers said.

Such services typically involve the police bringing a person

whom they fear may pose a danger to himself or others to a

mental health center for psychological evaluation.

Because of cutbacks, the number of beds for such emergency care

has been reduced from 80 to 46. Officials keep up with demand by

evaluating and stabilizing patients faster.

Both agencies also provide a variety of inpatient and

outpatient mental health services to adults and children.

The coming together also reflects the effort by the Mental

Health Center and Renaissance to deal with the uncertainty of

Medicaid managed care, Sommers said.

Together, the two agencies employ 425 and treated more than

10,000 people last year, he said.

Their budget is $17 million a year, and they operate in 20

locations in Duval County, he said.

About 90 percent of the two agencies' funding comes from the

federal, state or local governments.

Together the two mental health agencies will be able to cut

administrative overhead, gain economies of scale in purchasing,

and stand a better chance of winning managed care contracts,

Sommers said. …

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