Red ink drying up at mental health center

February 14, 1997


Staff Writer

The nonprofit Mental Health Center, which provides mental health services to Washington County residents, has made a dramatic recovery from financial ills that plagued it in 1995.

At that time, the center was forced to lay off five of 67 workers and cut back services, said Executive Director Mark Lannon.

Shrinking grant funds and bill-collection problems contributed to the center's deficit, he said.

Today the center is almost out of the red, and is expected to break even by the end of fiscal 1996, he said.


Lannon credited the center's 45 professional staff members with keeping the interests of patients first despite the upheavals of the past year.

Staff saw more people in calendar year 1996 than in 1995 - 1,286 compared to about 1,000 - and expanded services, Lannon said.

New programs include a summer camp for children with emotional problems and an addictions program for people with mental illness. An eating disorder program will begin this spring, Lannon said.

The Washington County Commissioners, the center's board and auditors and the Washington County Mental Health Authority worked to come up with a plan to get the center back on its feet, Lannon said.

The authority had been handling center finances since it broke off from the county health department and went private in 1993.

Lannon said the center last year hired a business manager, bought a billing software system and took control of its finances.

In addition, the center:

  • Reduced costs and improved efficiency by cutting four of eight supervisory positions and combining administrative duties.
  • Cut its annual budget from $3 million to $2 million.
  • Assigned an experienced clinician as head of admissions.
  • Trained staff to provide more efficient and effective treatment and established productivity rates, as a result of managed care.

Lannon said the center is operating on a fee-for-service basis, giving priority to those "with a history of serious and persistent mental illness."

The center has reduced from 25 percent to 8 percent the number of clients it serves who are uninsured and do not meet the above definition, Lannon said.

The center now shares non-paying cases equally with other area mental health care facilities, he said.

Lannon said staff treated 792 adults and 494 youngsters up to age 18 in 1996.

The Mental Health Center headquarters is at 401 E. Antietam St. in Hagerstown.

The Herald-Mail Articles