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CCO unprepared to serve mental health clients

The two Coordinated Care Organizations in Jackson County have given notice to Jackson County Mental Health that they are ending contracts with JCMH for almost all mental health services funded under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. The CCOs' mental health treatment transition plans for a vulnerable population are unrealistic and/or bogged down in negotiations.

CCOs are regional brokers set up by the Oregon Legislature to distribute federal and state money for mental health care for low-income persons.

The CCOs claim JCMH was not serving enough people fast enough. That’s what they say. But their actions and the facts belie this motive. This isn’t the only reason for these changes. The larger goal appears to be power-seeking and increased financial gain.

AllCare is for-profit. Using federal and state money for serving low-income people, AllCare has made over $40 million in profits in the past four years. This is taxpayer money they are pocketing instead of using it for delivery of much-needed services to low-income, high-risk people.

In addition, AllCare has spent over $800,000 in campaign donations to the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee and the governor. This is how privatization and the for-profit motive operates. It is not how JCMH operates.

The CCOs think they can start new mental health operations in Jackson County and within three to six months’ time deliver the same level of care it’s taken JCMH more than three years to build and deliver. This is a case either of faulty leadership or concerns other than good delivery of care.

Columbia Care, one of the new providers, is already having difficulties with the transition, and Options, the other provider, has no plan in place and less than a 30-day deadline for the transfer of their clients.

What should happen, if justice is to prevail, is a full state audit of all mental health service providers in Oregon who receive Affordable Care Act and Medicaid money so that a reasoned, nonpartisan decision can be made about the best means of delivery of mental health services in the state through money designated for serving low-income people.

Second, the Oregon Health Authority, the Legislature and the governor need to stop privatization and for-profit models of mental health care delivery for low-income individuals. It is a model that siphons off funds that could be used for client services.

— Anne Beaufort, a Qualified Mental Health Professional, works for Jackson County Mental Health.