Mental health advocates voice concerns
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 13, 2011 1:46 PM
Just over a year ago, Anna Boyd would have lacked the skills and self assurance to speak before a crowd. She was front and center of nearly 100 people last week, though, as she pleaded with state Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, and Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, to oppose a bill that opponents contend would endanger the very services for the developmentally disabled that have helped her so much.
House Bill 424/Senate Bill 316, co-sponsored by Pate, would allow local management entities to decide what services would be provided in their areas and what providers would be allowed in their network. If the person needed a service that was no longer provided, they would have no recourse, opponents of the bill said.
The LMEs also would be able to decide what rate would be billed for each service, which could lead to an inconsistent network of services statewide, opponents argue.
The bill, which opponents said had been rushed through without input from the disabled and those who serve them, has passed the Senate and its first reading in the House and has been referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services.
"I have certainly heard your concerns," Pate told the crowd gathered upstairs at A Small Miracle on Tommy's Road.
The meeting was put together by Janet Presson, who founded A Small Miracle, which provides comprehensive services for children and adults with autism and other special needs. The meeting was attended by clients and their families, as well as others involved personally or professionally with the developmentally disabled.
Opponents said the plan would be more expensive and result in the need for a larger LME staff. They also said the bill is being rushed though by a few people who stand to benefit, while companies that provide case management will have to shutter their businesses.
"It does make a difference when the person writing this big plan of the goals and objectives for our loved ones to work on each year if those people have ever seen our children before and or know our children," Mrs. Presson said.
Eastpointe Director Ken Jones said that LMEs will do some case management.
However, without the current system, people would have to stay home with a special-needs child or adult and not be able to work and be taxpayers, Mrs. Presson said.
The changes are being pushed through by a small group of people who stand to "get rich" off the changes and it will not be taxpayers, she said.
Ms. Boyd not only receives services from the Greenville office of A Small Miracle, she works there, too.
"These services they not only affect me, but the people who really need services," Ms. Boyd said as she sat next to Pate. "These services have been keeping me out of the hospital and on the right track. These services are really important because they give us a feeling of a normal life. If these service are cut out what would be the outcome?"
Pate promised he would look into the concerns.
"I think it is very important that you let us know and I hope people all over the state are letting their senators and representatives also know of these concerns," Pate said. "It just makes all the sense in the world that we go back and try to get the answers to these things that we have heard today and I will tell you that we will.
"The House has passed its budget and now it is before us. I am one of the co-chairs on appropriations committee on health and human services and we are wrestling with this very problem that has caused all of your interest and your, shall I say dismay, at what is going on. It is unfortunate if the word is not getting out."
Sager said that Pate had done a good job explaining the issue. He also assured the audience that they heard their concerns.
Carol Choate, who owns A Caring Heart, a case management agency, voiced concerns that the change could force businesses like hers to close.
"You have to realize this change will give the LMEs, the merged LMEs, a lot more control and a lot more autonomy than have had previously," she said. "While we certainly acknowledge that Eastpointe is probably the best LME in the state, I have also done business with some of the worst in the state."