Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 3, 2014

Program could ease sting of cuts

TRAVERSE CITY — A new federal program eventually could provide some financial relief to community mental health organizations in Michigan in the wake of deep cuts to their state general-purpose funding.

President Barack Obama signed off on a bill intended to increase access to community mental health centers and improve the care offered at those centers on Tuesday, the same day a 54-percent cut to state general fund money for Michigan’s community mental health groups kicked in.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who introduced the the bill along with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said eight states will receive additional federal funding as part of a pilot program for the new initiative.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will establish a set of rules states must meet in order to qualify for the pilot program. State officials will work with local mental health organizations to apply for the program.

“We’re looking at a couple of years away before it is all up and going, but once we get it up and going it’s going to be a very significant expansion,” Stabenow said.

Greg Paffhouse, CEO of Traverse City-based Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, said the new program could aid community mental health organizations in Michigan, if the state is selected for the pilot.

“You’d like to think, with Senator Stabenow being the moving force behind that, we’d have a good chance to be one of those eight states,” Paffhouse said.

But any additional funding from the pilot program likely will be designated for restricted purposes, unlike state general fund money, which community mental health groups can use as they see fit.

“The more categorical the funding is, the harder it is to really meet the needs of the community,” Paffhouse said.

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