The Salt Lake County Council has unanimously approved an audit of its mental health care system. The decision comes after Valley Mental Health announced it would no longer serve hundreds of patients due to a reduction in funding.
Salt Lake County Council Chairman Steve Debry says he and other council members learned that Valley Mental Health would be shrinking its patient rolls by reading the newspaper.
“We were caught off guard and by surprise. To put it mildly, we’re upset with it,” Debry says.
Valley Mental Health announced in June that it would be reducing the number of patients it serves, and focus on clients with serious mental illness. County reports show that 730 clients have been cut to date, and 75 percent of those have been connected with a new provider. Debry says the cuts have led the Council to approve an audit investigating both Valley Mental Health and OptumHealth, the managed care company contracted by the county to run the Medicaid-funded system.
“We need to find out exactly who did what, and when it was done, and why it was done, because at the end of the day, the buck stops with us at the County Council and the Mayor. We’re responsible for this program and for the citizens in the county that receive care from these programs. It’s vital that we find out exactly what transpired so that the right action can be taken, so these people can get the care that they need.”
Valley Mental Health cited cuts in the rates it gets paid for its services. County officials say they only cut their budget because Valley hadn’t been serving the number of clients expected. There was also a systemwide 5.5 percent reduction to mental health service providers because the population served by the county is growing.