Valley Mental Health to suspend sending 'transition' letters to patients under new agreement
"It's imperative we work together to improve our primary goal — appropriate and predictable care to those in need of mental health services," he said.
Gary Larcenaire, president and chief executive officer of Valley Mental Health, said VMH's system of care was built over 25 years under a different funding mechanism. He likened the model to a "highly complicated fleet of engines built to run on a particular type of fuel."
Not only was that the case for its operations, VMH's bonds for facilities such as the expansion of the Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children with Autism were based the previous funding model. That changed when Salt Lake County awarded the contract to manage its mental health resources to OptumHealth. Unlike VMH, it is not a direct service provider.
While VMH has pledged to work cooperatively with OptumHealth and the county, it faces many ongoing challenges, Larcenaire said.
"You're not gong to find one solution that converts this whole fleet over to new fuel," he said.
County Councilman Randy Horiuchi said he was frustrated by the public perception that the county had brought harm to the delivery of mental health services.
Salt Lake County funds mental health at a higher match than any other county in Utah. VMH, a nonprofit entity, spun off from the county, he said.
"The idea of being punitive to you is being punitive to us. It's like taking a gun and shooting my foot. I'd never do that," he said.
Ginger Phillips, a certified peer specialist who advocates for people with mental illnesses, said she was pleased that the County Council gave VMH time on its Tuesday agenda.
"I'm really glad Valley Mental Health got a chance to say their piece. Last week, I felt like they got ripped apart," she said.
VMH counselors and therapists have worked hard to help clients deal with the news of cuts, which Phillips said also impacted people who did not receive letters.
"The providers have tried to help everyone, not just the people who got letters," she said.
Last week, the County Council ordered a performance review of the county's entire mental health system.
Council Chairman Steve DeBry said he looks forward to the completion of an audit, which should provide "crystal clear information" regarding the funding streams and services provided by tax dollars.
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