Funding agreement means changes at Region 3 center

TUPELO – An agreement in which the state’s 15 community mental health centers will provide roughly $15 million to pull down federal funds to treat Medicaid recipients will force some changes at the Tupelo-based Region 3 Center.
Robert Smith, executive director of Region 3, “said it really strains us … We will do what we can to meet it.”
Smith said that for Region 3 to come up with the roughly $1 million in funds needed for the current year and for the upcoming year, he will be forced to close three adolescent offender programs located in Pontotoc, Fulton and New Albany.
Smith said the programs have proven successful in working with juvenile offenders.
He said Region 3 originally had a grant to operate the programs, but later did so out of center funds.
Another change will be increasing the minimum cost of treatment for the working poor who do not have health insurance or who do not qualify for Medicaid. That cost will go from $6 to $28.
Smith said he understands it was a big jump, but said the minimum cost for treatment, including to visit with a counselor or a psychiatrist, had not increased since the early 1990s.
Smith said he hopes the agreement that has been worked out this summer to provide the state’s share of the costs to treat Medicaid recipients will hold up during a tough 2011 legislative session where state leaders said they face a budget shortfall of $500 million or more.
Region 3 serves Benton, Lee Chickasaw, Itawamba, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union counties.
The centers also serve as a safety net for patients until they can be admitted to a state hospital, such as North Mississippi State Hospital in Tupelo.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio