Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Summary of 4/14/15 meeting on community living services in Washtenaw County, MI

The 4/14/15 meeting in Ann Arbor was sponsored by the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO) and Community Supports and Treatment Services (CSTS) to discuss the future of community living support services. These local Community Mental Health (CMH) agencies provide Medicaid-funded services to people with disabilities, including people who are developmentally disabled and mentally ill and their families. 

The meeting was attended by about 100 [make that 180!] people eager to hear whether the WCHO [facing a budget deficit of $3.8 million] and CSTS had plans to cut services that allow individuals and their families to survive and thrive in community settings.

The meeting began with a PowerPoint presentation on “Utilization Management”, a fancy term for assuring that public funds are spent for the purposes intended by law and policy. The full presentation can be linked to here on the WCHO Website. [Click on “Town Hall Announcement” and then “CLS PowerPoint Presentation”] . The emphasis was on “medically necessary” services and a plan to review and evaluate Individual Plans of Service (IPOS’s), looking at those plans with the highest utilization rate first. These reviews may or may not result in cuts to services for individuals. 

There was nothing new as far as CMH agencies' obligation to be fiscally responsible and to provide Medicaid services that are "medically necessary".  Here is a blog post from The DD News Blog with the definition of medical necessity. The definition does not limit recipients of services to what would ordinarily be considered strictly medical services. It includes services to maintain or improve functioning and allow a person to live in the community.

As is usually the case, the most interesting part of a public meeting is the public and the questions and observations of people who went out of their way to attend the meeting. Here are some of the issues that were raised by the crowd:

The letter that went out to recipients of services under “Self-determiniation” arrangements announcing a decrease in the pay rate for direct service providers
  • This was not the main topic of the 4/14 meeting, but the explanation for decreasing the pay was that Washtenaw County wants pay rates to conform to rates in the other counties in the 4-county affiliation of the Community Mental Health Partnership of Southeast Michigan
  • Someone pointed out that there is no requirement that pay rates for every county be the same and that Washtenaw has the highest cost of living in the four-county region.  
  • It is ironic that pay rates for direct service providers under self-determination living arrangements are being cut, while the Federal government through its rule on Home and Community-Based service settings encourages these kinds of living arrangements over congregate care and is applying pressure on states to move in this direction. Cutting pay rates is a sure way of making it harder for individuals to hire direct care staff who are competent and reliable.
The CSTS PowerPoint emphasizes the success of the WCHO and CSTS in cutting hospitalization times for people with mental illness. An audience member spoke of talking to family members of people with severe mental illness who say that hospital stays are way too short and do not allow people to adjust to new medications and to transition back to the community.

There were also complaints that families were already being threatened with service cuts, including people needing care and supervision 24 hours a day. Some were told there was no appeal of service cuts, even though there is both a local and state appeals process required by law. For more information see Recipient Rights and page 24 and 25 of the Guide to Services.

More meetings:

Check the announcements page of the WCHO Website for more information on a meeting scheduled for May 7, 2015 at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor.

The WCHO Board of Directors meets on the third Tuessday of every month.

The new pay rates for direct care workers for Self-determination go into effect on May 15, 2015, but there will be a meeting before that date to discuss concerns of consumers.


Jen Gossett said...

Jill, I really appreciated your detailed recount of the 4/14 meeting. I attended, but had difficulty hearing what was said for most of the meeting due to space/resource limitations.

Anonymous said...

I was unable to find any reference to a meeting at St. Luke's for May 7, 2015.
Do you know what the agenda?

Jill Barker said...

The meeting will cover Community Living Supports and Self-determination rate changes. That's all I know so far. I will post the information on the blog when I find out more. I assume there will be time for more questions and answers.

Anonymous said...

Wish we had support on the west side of town!! Some of us have difficult getting transportation let alone getting to places!! We are just important as the next person!! Please help us find a solution!! Team xo! :-)