Panel backs creation of new agency to distribute mental health funds

February 24, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Carroll County's mental health advisory committee voted yesterday to ask the county commissioners to create a new agency with the financial clout to change how county residents receive mental health services.

The agency, which would be called a core service agency, is proposed as a private, nonprofit group that would distribute approximately $2.2 million a year that Carroll agencies receive from the state Mental Hygiene Administration to provide community mental health services.

"The core service agency would have a lot of flexibility and power to distribute or redistribute mental health dollars," said Howard Held, director of the county Health Department's Mental Health Bureau.

If the core service agency were dissatisfied with the way the Mental Health Bureau provides services, for example, Mr. Held said the agency could solicit proposals from other mental health professionals to take over those services. If that happened, the agency would divert state money from the Mental Health Bureau to the new group.

The proposed core agency would be governed by a board that would include mental health advocates, representatives of public mental health agencies such as the county Health Department and Springfield Hospital Center, representatives of private agencies such as the Granite House housing and rehabilitation program, and consumers.

Maryland's Mental Health Administration provides grant money to hire an executive director and staff for local core service agencies.

The impetus for getting local jurisdictions to form core service agencies came from the growth of community mental health facilities that followed deinstitutionalization of mental patients during the last 20 years, said Jim Stockdill, the Mental Health Administration's deputy director.

The state government now has more than 100 contracts to administer and is providing some $88 million in grants to community programs this fiscal year, he said.

"To manage all these contracts, we decided to decentralize and let the counties and Baltimore City manage the state money," Mr. Stockdill said.

Mental health services clients in Carroll County wouldn't see an immediate change even if the commissioners approve the core service agency in time to get start-up money appropriated for fiscal 1994. But Mr. Stockdill said he would like to have the county's letter of intent by April 1.

The local proposal calls for "no major changes in the provision of services" during a two-year phase-in of the core service agency.

Mr. Stockdill said the state usually continues to manage contracts for the first year while the local board hires staff and gets started. In the second year, the core agency would take over administration of the contracts.

Carroll's mental health advisory committee debated the core service agency idea for nearly three years before forming a subcommittee six months ago to draft a proposal. Mr. Stockdill said the subcommittee wrestled over whether to make the core agency part of the Health Department, as some counties have.

Cynthia A. Little, the subcommittee chairwoman, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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