Summit County approved a new mental health and substance abuse services contract on Thursday. There is also a new county position of a full time Director of Behavioral Health.
County Council selected The University of Utah to be the contracted provider for substance abuse and mental health services for Summit County. It will replace a 20- year agreement with Valley Behavioral Health. The contract isn’t finalized but the county attorney is working to finish it up in the next few weeks.
Aaron Newman has been named Director of Behavioral Health for Summit County, which is a new position. He’s worked with the county as a contractor and says the challenges of substance abuse, mental wellness and behavioral health justify a full-time person.
“Still work a lot with the mental wellness strategic plan. And these are services mandated in a state code and state law that we have to provide. Back then, in the 90s, when we first entered into these contracts with Valley, it met our needs. But as we continue to grow and as we saw the stigma kind of diminish a bit more and more every year, and more people seeking services, we realized that model wasn't going to be sustainable for the long term.”
The long-time contracted provider, Valley Mental Health, could not provide for the increasing needs of the county any longer.
“The demands were so great. They couldn’t get the staff to meet those. We saw wait times. And then there were other programs that just, they didn't have the capacity to operate. Some of those include just assessment in school districts. They provide school- based services but they couldn't provide additional assessments, specifically North Summit and South Summit where they really needed that resource. By having a network model, if there's the service that we need and we currently just don't have it, we can see is there someone locally that is already doing that and then let's get them into the University of Utah's network.”
Newman says the contract with the University of Utah will provide access to the Psychiatric Institute at the U. There will be one centralized phone number for all the providers in the network. The services are available to Medicaid and unfunded Summit County clients. Patients with insurance can use the service if the contracted providers are in network.
Newman says a lot of their funding is based on Medicaid enrollment. While the expansion program has some unknowns, he expects more funding for Summit County.
“With the Medicaid expansion and the current bridge program, what is that going to look like? One aspect though, that we are receiving more funding for is the fact with the selection of the University of Utah, they’re being identified as the state, it's called accountable care organization or ACO. So, they're going to be overseeing all of Medicaid expansion in new enrollees. And with that we're going to receive this first year in additional $300,000 in funding for services here in Summit County.”
The selection committee included clinicians, community members and representatives from Connect Summit County. Newman outlines the five key priorities they used to make the decision to favor the University of Utah.
“One was increasing our outpatient care. The other was access and increasing our capacity for case management, which already by the selection of University of Utah, we've jumped from at least from one psychiatrist to upwards of about 10 to 15. The other was increase in our case management. Right now, we have one case manager for the entire County. We also looked at our drug court and incarcerated services. So how do we improve our level of care there. And then our school-based services. How do we help improve those services providing counselors and assessments in all three school districts?”
Newman says a team of case managers will help transition patients to the new providers over the next year. The length of the contract is not yet negotiated but he expects it will run from three to six years.