Nearly 130 without CHM services

ALPENA – Despite an extra $25 million for Michigan’s Community Mental Health agencies, Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority was forced to discontinue services for nearly 130 people.

Ed LaFramboise, NEMCMH executive director, said the authority’s general funds will be cut as of today by 54 percent. That’s a reduction from around $150,000 per month to just over $71,000 a month. And there could be more cuts on the way.

“The governor’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year still contains a reduction in general funds of 66 percent, so we have a little reprieve for six months, during which time the Healthy Michigan (program) takes effect,” he said.

LaFramboise referred to the state’s Medicaid expansion, which included cutting Community Mental Health’s budget by 66 percent. The money was set aside to pay for Healthy Michigan when federal funding drops to 95, and later 90, percent of the expansion. This was done with the thought that more CMH clients could sign up for the expanded Medicaid, and CMH could in turn bill Medicare for their services.

However, only about 40 of those being cut off may be eligible for the Medicaid expansion, LaFramboise said. NEMCMH has been forced to cut off the services of so many because they’re being partially or fullly funded by general fund dollars. The authority has prioritized who it’ll continue to serve based on their situation and health, and will continue to provide crisis intervention services around the clock.

“It’s been a very traumatic four weeks here; traumatic for the people who have been notified, and traumatic for the staff who have worked with those individuals for, in many cases, years and years,” he said.

Many of those the agency had to cut are enrolled in Medicare, LaFramboise said. The agency will continue to serve some Medicaid-enrolled clients with spend-downs, which are similar to deductibles.

NEMCMH is working with those who received notices on making transition plans, LaFramboise said. That includes referring them to other service providers.

In March, state lawmakers passed a supplemental appropriations bill that included $25 million for Community Mental Health services. Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, is in charge of the state’s CMH budget, and said in February the extra money was meant to help agencies continue to serve clients not enrolled in Medicaid.

“It has a positive impact, but when you’re cutting that much out of a budget it’s pretty catastrophic,” LaFramboise said

Applications for Healthy Michigan are accepted starting today, LaFramboise said. People can apply at the Department of Human Services, online at www.mibridges.michigan.gov, or with the help of a certified application counselor. District Health Department No. 4, Alcona Health Services and Thunder Bay Community Health Services each have a certified application counselor.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.