County rallies to provide service to center patients

October 07, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some of the people who have relied on the Cumberland Valley Mental Health Center over the past 40 years said goodbye Wednesday.

"This place has saved my life many, many times," Vicki Wagner of Shippensburg, Pa., told a group of about two dozen people, mostly clients, who gathered outside the center on its final day of operations.

"We thought we were standing on a solid rock where we could get better," said Wagner, who has attended the center's Partial Hospitalization Program for more than two years.


"Now it feels like we're in sinking sand because it's not going to be here to hold us up," she said.

Most of the approximately 2,000 people from Franklin and Fulton counties served by the center still have access to mental health services, according to Franklin County Human Services Administrator Doug Price. The Board of County Commissioners Tuesday entered into interim agreements with other agencies to serve uninsured residents, Price said.

Outpatient psychiatric and therapy services are being taken over by Keystone Health Center, while outpatient medication monitoring will be done by Summit Behavioral Services, Price said.

Keystone will run Crisis Intervention Services, with no interruption of its 24-hour hotline, Price said. The Student Assistance Program is being taken over by Manito Inc., which already provides mental health and substance abuse services at schools in both counties, Price said.

An exception is the Partial Hospitalization program, a day center that provides structured therapy and treatment programs. "There is no licensed provider in either of the counties," Price said.

The county will have to solicit proposals from other agencies for the service, he said. Until then, Price said the county will develop individualized treatment plans for clients.

While the county provides funding for uninsured residents, Price said those on medical assistance will be able to get outpatient services at two other mental health agencies, Franklin Family Services and the Mountain Valley Center.

Executive Director Don Waters said a few staff members will remain at Cumberland Valley until Oct. 29 to answer questions and refer people to other agencies.

The board of directors voted Sept. 22 to close the center, which had been losing money in recent years, Waters said Monday. Medical assistance reimbursements not keeping pace with the cost of care was one of the reasons Waters cited for the center's financial problems.

"Even though the center is closing, tomorrow is another day," said Kenny Wuertenberg, the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Franklin & Fulton Counties. "Come to us and we'll try and connect you with services."

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