Agency helping keep Crossroads clinics operating

The president of the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network (CFBH) presented an update to Hendry County commissioners last week about its work with the Crossroads Behavioral Health Center, which took over providing mental-health services after the Hendry-Glades Mental Health Center shut down just over three years ago.

Linda McKinnon, president and chief executive officer of the network, informed the board Tuesday, Jan. 9, that it would continue working with Crossroads to provide services in mental health for the area. As one of seven “managing entities in the state that were established by the Legislature to contract for and manage services for mental health,” she said, Central Florida Behavioral Health’s purpose is to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being used responsibly and effectively and that Crossroads continues to fulfill state and federal regulations. Its services include pregnancy and post-partum counseling, drug addiction counseling and assistance for parents of children who are at risk.

“Laws require that all services and payments be substantiated by client-level data that goes through our system to the state,” she explained, although the network does not provide services directly. After Hendry-Glades ceased operating at the end of 2014, Central Florida contracted with clinicians and a Cali Health provider to let services continue while seeking a new company to run a local clinic.

“Crossroads stepped up, and we contracted for approximately $723,000 for the 2015-16 year. As this was a brand-new provider with no state contract experience, we worked in partnership with the state to allow Crossroads to provide services without having to verify them or put data into our system,” she said. That arrangement, though, was allowed for one year only. Then, “in 2016, CF contracted for approximately $901,000 with Crossroads. The contract allowed 50 percent availability just paying for staff time and 50 percent of the payment would have to be substantiated with client-specific data. Crossroads lost about $123,000 that year.”

Ms. McKinnon said issues arose last year, however, that caused billing concerns. CFBH then stepped in. “We provided about four to six technical assistance visits at the time. Crossroads was put under corrective action and given a time-limited contract. This technical assistance included documenting how to document financial eligibility, bill appropriate insurance companies, get on Medicaid provider panels, pursue Medicare contracts, implement basic accounting software, have a financial audit completed, collect required copayments, and assure that the indigent drug funds were being spent accurately.”

This year, Crossroads’ contract is about $675,000, “the maximum amount that they can utilize with providing clinical services and, in an attempt to support this small clinic, we increased the rates for this service to greater than the amount supported by the budget,” she added. “All of this had to be approved by the state.” Although the company has done better, she said, “we are working diligently with Crossroads to help them continue to be a viable service provider. We are working with other providers should that not occur, so we can assure that your communities continue to have mental health and substance abuse coverage.”

Commissioner Michael Swindle commended Ms. McKinnon and CFBH on their work. “I work closely with school districts, and … I’m going to tell you, there’s an epidemic, you all know and everyone knows, and we feel like we have our fair share and probably then some of it.” He urged CFBH to continue looking for providers, “because I know even in the school district, you can’t find them. I know that TeleMed is an option, probably not the best but sometimes the only option.”

Ms. McKinnon responded: “We are really looking at TeleMed as an adjunct to our service array. I know a very big issue is the opioid epidemic and … that we do not have a set provider here who is able to address that, so people end up having to really travel.”

Saying he appreciated their work to help keep Crossroads viable as “that’s all we have,” Mr. Swindle added: “If there’s a way this board can help you, we absolutely need that. There’s a glaring need and a glaring demand here.”

Said County Board Chairman Mitchell Wills: “We appreciate everything you do. And if there’s any way that … we can partner together to try to make these things better for our communities… that’s going to be a major plus.”

Ms. McKinnon was also asked to continue updating the county commissioners periodically about the delivery of mental health services in Hendry County from the perspective of Central Florida Behavioral Health. Crossroads’ clinics serving Hendry and Glades county residents are at 1100 S. Olympia St. in Clewiston and 483 E. Cowboy Way in LaBelle. Their phone number is 863-674-5012.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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