Mental health funds in local hands


The directors of the county's newest nonprofit mental health agency, meeting for the first time yesterday, assumed control of $8 million in state money targeted for residential and outpatient treatment.

The takeover marks the end of a three-year push by mental health care providers to create a private, nonprofit core agency to coordinate services for as many as 22,000 mentally ill county residents.

In the past, that coordination and the allocation of money has been left up to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.

"Instead of people in Baltimore making decisions about what agencies in Anne Arundel County get funds, people in the county who have looked at what services are needed and monitored what's going on" will make the decisions, said Ardath Cade, who oversees the county's human services agencies, including the Health Department, which provides mental health out-patient services.

Maryland law requires each county to have a core service agency to plan, manage and monitor the use of public funds for mental health services. Fifteen counties and Baltimore have core service agencies.

State health officials say every county should have one by 1995. The move toward local control follows the growth of community-based, rather than institutional, mental health services in the past 10 to 15 years.

"The state is saying in a genuine way that some of these decisions can be better made at the local level," Mrs. Cade said.

The state had approved three previous county proposals for a core service agency, dating back to 1990, but none had been carried out.

Fearing that the county was losing thousands of dollars in stataid that could have been used to better the lives of mentally ill residents, health care advocates criticized Anne Arundel officials for dragging their feet.

In August, the County Council approved County ExecutivRobert R. Neall's proposal to create a private, nonprofit agency separate from the county Health Department.

Mr. Neall announced the appointment of the agency's board of )) directors Wednesday. Lynn T. Krause of Annapolis will be chairman. Also appointed were Jane A. Schneider of Deale, Steve Campbell of Galesville, Ray Link of Linthicum, the Rev. Ricky Spain of Annapolis, Betty Marie Hawkins of Crownsville, Gregory M. Vaughn of Glen Burnie and Wanda Jean Delphi of Millersville.

Others on the board are Livia M. Pazourek of Millersville; Joseph DiLiberti of Severna Park; Lois Miller, an Omni House employee; and Carolyn Kirby, a county government representative.

The new agency will report to the secretary of health and mental hygiene, though county officials are permitted to review its financial records.

The agency will receive an additional $200,000 from the state to cover administrative costs. It also will be able to apply for state and federal grants above what it receives from the state Mental Hygiene Administration.

An additional advantage is that counties with core services agencies are allowed to roll over surplus funds from one year to the next. Counties without such agencies must return leftover money.

A study completed last year estimated that at least 8,300 seriously mentally ill people live in Anne Arundel County, but members of the local chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill (AMI) say the number is probably much higher.

Thomas M. Schulz, local AMI president, said studies have shown the the mentally ill make up about 5 percent of the population. By that measure, the county would have close to 22,000 mentally ill residents.

During fiscal 1994, which began July 1, the state has allocated $7.9 million to four public and private mental health providers: the county Department of Health, Omni House, the Psychotherapeutic Services Association and Arundel Lodge.

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