County listens to mixed views regarding mental health issue
At a public hearing last week, the Carbon County commission heard mixed comments regarding the level of service provided by Four Corners Mental Health.
The non-profit mental health provider is the designated Medicaid service provider and sole source mental health and substance abuse program provider for Carbon, Emery and Grand Counties.
Each year, commissioners conduct a public hearing to review the performance of Four corners.
Current and former clients told commissioners why they believed Four Corners had helped them.
One client identified herself as bipolar and said she had obsessive-compulsive disorder.
She said she has utilized the broad range of services provided by Four Corners.
Another client who described herself as severely depressed, said when she started as a client of four Corners, she had extremely limited resources.
"I had almost no income. There is no way I would have been able to get the help that I needed without the fact that they had funding so they could provide services on a sliding fee scale," she explained.
"Four corners saved my life," said another client, who identified himself as a former polysubstance abuser - someone who abuses multiple substances simultaneously.
He added that drug abuse does not discriminate, but affects all demographics in a community.
"Those who have substance abuse problems and have gotten to the point where they need assistance typically don't have the monetary assets necessary for treatment because it can be very expensive," he said.
"It took me more than year to get my head on straight," he continued. "It took me more than a year to get back to where I felt like I was the person I was before I started using drugs. And I still go through challenges every day. It's only because of Four Corners and them introducing me to some other programs that will be lifelong for me that I have the opportunity that I feel I can live up to my potential."
But while current and former clients spoke favorably about their experiences at Four Corners, some at the public hearing said they were disappointed with the mental health provider's performance.
"We do not have access to their psychiatrist because we do not use their therapist," said a program manager and supervisor for Utah Youth Village, a provider of residential treatment for children who are wards of the state. Because they are wards of the state, children in the program are covered by Medicaid.
The program manager said case workers for Youth Village have been forced to take clients to the Wasatch Front to receive proper treatment.
When case workers, therapists and others at Youth Village have approached Four Corners for a client to see a psychiatrist, she indicated that people have been told the agency only provides psychiatrists for its own clients.
She described a recent case in which a 10-year-old girl was reportedly suicidal and self-mutilating.
Therapists and case workers determined that the girl needed treatment beyond what they could provide, claimed the woman.
"We waited at the hospital for the [Four Corners'] on-call worker three hours," she explained, adding that the delay took up the time of both police officers and case workers.
And once the on-call worker arrived, Youth Village workers were reportedly told Four Corners could not do anything because the girl was not a Four Corners client.
The program director, the 10-year-old girl's therapist and the girl's guardian all reportedly expressed concerns regarding the lack of access to Four Corners services even though the youth is covered by Medicaid.
"The policy isn't there to harm people. It's there to help people and to keep the level of care intact," pointed out Jan Bodily, executive director for Four Corners.
The mental health center director agreed when Carbon Commissioner Michael Milovich suggested that a policy could be created for the type of situation involving the 10-year-old at Youth Village in which Four Corners could step in to fill the needs of Medicaid recipients in the local area and allow easier access to various levels of treatment.
"If we're here to provide mental health care, we need to be real careful about being so rigid about what our rules are that somebody is harmed," said Bodily. "I have a fiduciary responsibility to stay in business, and I will take that seriously. But that doesn't negate that when people need help, that's what we're here to do."
In his experience as an emergency medical technician, Milovich indicated that he had observed delays in response times by Four Corners.
Milovich said he would like to see the response times situation change.
"The staff needs to understand that they need to be there, not three hours later," emphasized the Carbon County commissioner.
Bodily indicated that she has heard complaints about response time from law enforcement personnel and other agencies locations across the Four Corners' service area.
The director explained that she has addressed the need to respond immediately and said Four Corners is working to improve response times.
Carbon commissioners encouraged Four Corners and the Youth Village to find a solution to the situation.
In addition, the county asked Bodily to formulate a policy that will better serve the individuals who do not fit into the typical behavioral health structure provided at Four Corners.
"I hear you asking us to be a community player and I'm interested in doing that," said Bodily.