Davis County Mental Health was given a clean report Wednesday by a state auditing team, the first of four quarterly checks of the agency's performance in the community.

The review is the first in Utah under a new system instituted in the wake of the Timpanogos Mental Health scandal. Three Timp officials have been charged with 117 criminal counts in the misuse of $3.5 million in contract fees.Veon Smith, director of quality assurance for the division of mental health of the state Department of Social Services, said Wednesday the new audit system will involve four onsite visits of mental health agencies annually instead of a single comprehensive audit.

The quarterly reviews will examine different aspects of the agency's operation, including a financial audit and the four reports will be combined into a single annual review report, Smith said.

And the review team has been expanded to include representatives of mental health advocacy and consumer groups, Smith said. Peggy Timblin, president of U-Can-Du, a statewide mental health consumer group, was on the team that inspected the Davis agency Tuesday and Wednesday.

Timblin said she personally participated in the Davis inspection because it is the first of its type in the state. A member of her group will be on review teams visiting other agencies statewide, she said.

John Lesnan, a quality assurance staff member, said the Timpanogos scandal has put mental health services and agencies across the state under a cloud of criticism.

"We needed to change our perspective in quality assurance," Lesnan said. "We need information and data from the centers to answer our critics and show that we are serving the needs of Utah's mentally ill.

"We're struggling right now to put a better quality assurance review procedure together and this visit is the first one under the new system," Lesnan said.

During its first Davis visit, Smith said, the review team looked at administration and the appropriateness, quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of the services the agency is providing to the community.

He praised the Davis staff, and director Dr. Russ Williams, for its concern for the community and said it is aggressively trying to provide the maximum amount of service and programs on a limited funding basis.

Smith said the Davis agency is being reasonably well administered and said there is a good relationship between the agency's staff and its board of directors.

Davis Mental Health is a private, non-profit agency governed by a board of directors from the community. It is funded by a combination of county, state, and federal programs, along with fees it charges for its services.

Smith said one unresolved problem is an informal state attorney general's opinion that says it is a conflict of interest for a county commissioner to serve on the board of a private agency.

Commissioner Gayle Stevens, along with eight other county residents, makes up the agency's board of directors.

Smith said his review of the agency's services shows it has a strong interest in serving the "seriously, persistently mentally ill" in the county but there is less emphasis on the less seriously ill.

Budget and staff constraints are a factor there, Smith said, adding he doesn't have a suggestion at this point on how to resolve the problem.

As for the services offered, Smith said he is impressed with the range and quality of the agency's programs and counselors are staying up with new methods and strategies of treatment.

As to how effective the programs are, Smith said measurements there are difficult to make. The center sends out followup questionnaires to clients, Smith said, but not all of them are returned and it's not an effective measurement.

"Effectiveness is a hard, expensive measurement to get," Smith said. "It's hard to quantify it for comparison to either other centers or the center itself on an ongoing basis," Smith said.

But his review shows the Davis agency appears to be effective, Smith said, with a high number of satisfied clients.