Valley explained that it will focus on caring only for those with acute mental illness. Other patients will be referred to other providers. But that should not be acceptable. Bouncing from one doctor or therapist to another is difficult for people suffering from mental illness, and the county has a responsibility to serve all the mentally ill, not merely those who live with acute forms of the disease.
McAdams is appropriately responding to patients and advocates who demand an independent review. While the mayor said he is angry with Valley Mental Health for reducing the number of patients it serves, he should demand an objective review of the whole system.
In 2011, before McAdams took office, the county decided to use the private company to manage the system rather than Valley Mental Health, a nonprofit organization, which for decades had overseen spending of the county's $50 million in Medicaid funds. At the time, there were concerns about the management of Valley Mental Health. But the move to privatize the management of mental-health services now must be evaluated with one goal in mind: helping those county residents who need mental-health care.
When the county cut provider payments 5.5 percent, officials believed patients would continue to be served, despite reductions in state and federal Medicaid funding. McAdams said he only learned about patients being dropped from reading news reports. Valley Mental Health should have communicated better with county officials about its decision to bounce patients to other providers.
Optum is a private company that must turn a profit. An audit should determine how much of the problem lies with the county's decision to privatize services, contracting with a company that, by its nature, has a bottom-line mentality.