Mental health funding shortfall could lead to jobs lost

Some lawmakers “thought there was money in the budget that was not there,” Ed LeGrand, executive director of the Department of Mental Health, said Monday. “They realize now they did not have all the information.”

Department officials hope to get backing from Barbour and lawmakers for a plan to borrow against the fiscal year’s second half of appropriations to make up for the deficit. Under the plan, lawmakers would reimburse the department after they return in January.

The $30 million shortfall means centers will have to get rid of programs and some of their 3,700 employees, mental health officials say. Some of the centers already are struggling financially, especially those treating the poorest of Mississippi’s poor.

“Worst-case scenario, we would have to close our doors,” said Karen Corley, executive director for the Region 1 Mental Health Center in Clarksdale.

The center can’t survive on the 83 cents on the dollar it gets from Medicaid, she said. “We truly need some help from somewhere, either from the Department of Mental Health or the state of Mississippi.”

Barbour vetoed taking $7 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help pay back some of the Medicaid match money the centers and the Department of Mental Health already have been forced to pay.

LeGrand said the department has no beef with what Barbour did because the governor made clear he would only allow lawmakers to use $95 million from that fund. The $7 million would have kicked money withdrawn from the fund over that amount.