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Hot potato for the state

Post by David Seago on Aug. 31, 2007 at 4:12 pm with No Comments »
August 31, 2007 4:12 pm

This is inside baseball, unless you’re maybe mentally ill. But the Department and Social and Health Services and Pierce County look like they’re working out a smooth shift of the county’s mental health services to the state.

This is happening because county leaders, especially Executive John Ladenburg, got fed up with state and federal funding for psychiatric care. The county’s been squeezed in recent years, and Ladenburg said it needed $3.65 million more a year to meet its contractual obligations to the mentally ill.

The money wasn’t forthcoming, so the county has kicked those obligations back to the state. The risk here is that the psychiatric safety net will get ripped in the transition. There’s been local concern, for example, that Crisis Triage center in Tacoma – where mentally ill patients in crisis are successfully stabilized – won’t survive under state control.

A delegation from DSHS came in today and basically said: We’re not sure how to do this, but we’re going to figure it out. The county has agreed to stay on the job through the end of the year to assure a smooth hand-off.

Doug Porter, assistant secretary of the the Health and Rehabilitative Services Administration, said DSHS plans to keep Crisis Triage and other important services. “We are looking every way we can to preserve what’s best about the (existing) system”

Porter said the state is “highly motivated” to continue the county’s success at keeping patients out of the extremely expensive beds at Western State Hospital.

If the transition goes as planned, he said, the patients “won’t notice any difference at all.”


Ladenburg himself isn’t nearly so optimistic about the state’s intentions. He emailed me with this:

Patrick, saw the blog. I don’t know if you knew this, but the Crisis Triage was a program that the State told us was “optional” and unnecessary. The letter that we got from the State that outraged the Board on the day they voted to withdraw spoke of “discretionary money” that we were spending. Crisis Triage was what they were talking about. Of course, the hospitals will tell you it is a “best practice” model, but the State doesn’t care. They will kill it.

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