03/24/04 — Eastpointe mental health faces funding cuts

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Eastpointe mental health faces funding cuts

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 24, 2004 2:15 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Eastpointe's board of directors voted Tuesday night to fight a planned $1.5 million cut in its state funding next year.

The board, which oversees local public mental health services, will ask the county boards in Wayne, Duplin, Sampson and Lenoir counties to contact their legislators and ask for their intervention.

Meanwhile, Eastpointe officials will continue to lobby the N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services to avoid or lessen the loss.

The state recently notified the mental health agencies that it plans to change its funding formulas for the 2004-05 budget year, Eastpointe Director Dr. Jack St. Clair told the board.

Agencies with service areas of 150,000 to 200,000 in population will receive a minimum of $2.03 per person per month. But those with areas larger than 200,000 people will have their monthly per capita rates drop to $1.61.

It may seem like small reduction, but it adds up to a $1.5 million, finance officer Ken Jones noted.

Eastpointe's state funding would equal nearly $7.2 million using the $2.03 figure and around $5.7 million with the proposed $1.61.

The local mental health agency argued for the higher rate, but state officials have not been supportive, St. Clair said.

Eastpointe is asking the state to consider the costs of its 2003 merger, which brought together all four counties' mental health services. Board member Floyd McCullouch said he has been told by a state official that the division is willing to consider the cost of consolidating services.

Ironically, Eastpointe is being penalized for following the state's mental health reform plan.

The Wayne County Mental Health Center merged with the Duplin-Sampson-Lenoir center last year because the four counties together had more than 200,000 people. The reform legislation had called for all mental health agencies to serve at least that large of a population.

But several centers remain below that threshold -- some far below it -- and are now scheduled to receive the higher funding formula.

St. Clair said the state is continuing to encourage agencies with service areas of fewer than 150,000 people to join with neighboring counties.

The Eastpointe board of directors typically meets the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Mount Olive Historic Assembly Hall, which is the former Mount Olive High School.