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DSHS bails out non-Medicaid eligible health patients

People ineligible for Medicaid services for their mental illnesses can continue to receive treatment from Washington's mental health providers through at least June 30, 2005, the Department of Social and Health Services announced this week.

State mental health Director Karl Brimner said U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Vancouver) was very helpful in working with federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in achieving the extension.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved a DSHS request that it suspend until June 30 its directive that the state's Regional Support Networks, which administer most publicly funded mental health services, cease using unspent funds for other people and services.

Previously, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had directed that the state reserve Medicaid funds only for Medicaid-eligible clients as of Jan. 1, 2005. Approximately 200 people in Sunnyside who aren't Medicaid-eligible clients would have been cut off from their mental health care had the directive not been suspended.

Brimner welcomed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services letter, which was received this past Tuesday.

In its letter, the agency said, "CMS supports the state's efforts to realign its community mental health service delivery and funding mechanisms in order to better serve persons with mental illnesses while meeting all federal statutory and regulatory requirements. We recognize the necessity and importance of the state's development of a legislative agenda to appropriately fund the provision of mental health services in Washington state."

To address this problem over the long term, DSHS will continue to work with the governor's office and the legislature toward discussion and implementation of the recommendations of an Executive and Legislative Mental Health Task Force, which has been meeting for several months to address problems within the system.

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