Sen. Thomas M. "Mac" Middleton, the Charles County Democrat who leads the Senate Finance Committee, pointed to concerns expressed by Dr. Brian Hepburn, executive director of the Mental Hygiene Administration. Hepburn told The Sun that the BBH housing might have served as an "inducement" for some patients to enroll in state-funded outpatient treatment that they didn't need.
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- Stephen Brown says he was ill equipped to be a BBH patient-house manager
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The state and federal governments share the cost of Medicaid.
Based on state figures covering seven years, The Sun found that 90 percent of drug-using patients at Baltimore Behavioral Health, many of them walk-ins, have been deemed to suffer from mental illness — a rate three times higher than at drug treatment centers statewide.
"If you have a center like Baltimore Behavioral Health, where the numbers are way, way over the average, it should send up some red flags," Middleton said. "There's got to be more review of utilization."
But Middleton said it was premature to draw conclusions, and he expressed confidence that state health officials would "get to the bottom of it."
"I have been a real, real strong advocate for the mental health community," he said. "Some of these providers are struggling — and struggling hard. I don't want to see a single dollar that goes into mental health and drug addiction treatment spent unwisely."
BBH has until early next month to submit a formal plan of correction after surveyors from Grimm's office found numerous deficiencies in August during a check of 12 randomly selected patient files. Among other deficiencies, records indicated that three of those patients had simultaneously attended separate drug treatment sessions and mental health sessions.
Last week, Hathaway of BBH said in an e-mail that most of the alleged deficiencies resulted from state surveyors' unfamiliarity with the company's electronic records and that the audit was not based on the complete record.