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Published: Wednesday, 5/20/2009

Committee to monitor mental health panel's work

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Three months after the abrupt closing of an adolescent treatment center, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said yesterday he has formed an oversight committee to review the workings of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

Mr. Gerken said he wasn't satisfied with the board's handling of Connecting Point, the only youth-based psychological services provider in Lucas County, which closed in February, leaving as many as 1,500 children without a provider.

The ad hoc commission will look at the way the mental health board purchases services for clients in Lucas County, as well as conflict-of-interest policies and lengths of board members' terms.

He said such commissions have been successful at bringing about reform in other situations, notably with the Toledo Zoo and the Lucas County Improvement Corp.

The commission appointees are Marijo Tamburrino, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Toledo, Jane Moore, executive vice president of United Way of Greater Toledo, Joyce Chapple, a former top administrator for city and state government, James Ray, a former Lucas County Juvenile Court judge,

and Richard Arnold, a client of mental health services agencies.

Joining Mr. Gerken in support of the commission were mental health board members David Schlaudecker, incoming chairman of the board, and board members Gayle Campbell and David Zoll.

Connecting Point received most of its funding through the mental health board. The Connecting Point board was faulted for ignoring its mounting fiscal crisis during 2007 and 2008, and the mental health board has been faulted for not taking more decisive action to prevent Connecting Point's collapse.

Jacqueline Martin, executive director of the mental health board, said 1,495 youths were clients of Connecting Point during 2008. She said all but 298 have been located and signed up with a new provider. The rest, she said, have not been reached for a variety of reasons, such as they had moved, were incarcerated, or had turned 18.

Ms. Martin said the agency does have a procurement process, but said much of the procurement is dictated by Medicaid, which pays for the services of 98 percent of the clients.

She said the board worked with Connecting Point for a couple of years.

"The reality is unless this body was willing to put another $300,000 into Connecting Point it could not have survived," Ms. Martin said.

She said the board would cooperate fully with the commission.

Louise Barkan, the mental health board chairman, said she has not been informed of the purpose of the commission.

"But we certainly are happy to do anything we can to make it run smoothly," Mrs. Barkan said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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