Three agencies recommended to take over county mental health programs

2013-05-31T03:45:00Z 2013-09-12T14:43:05Z Three agencies recommended to take over county mental health programsBy NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Local nonprofits Lutheran Family Services, CenterPointe and OMNI likely will take over Lancaster County-run mental health services for about 3,500 low-income people with serious mental illness.

The three Nebraska-based agencies will operate the services from the same locations now being used, including the County Mental Health Center at 2200 St. Mary's Ave., Linda Wittmuss, with Region V Systems, told county commissioners Thursday morning.

A committee of 11 people selected the three agencies based on proposals from five companies interested in providing the services.  

The County Board will vote on the recommendations Tuesday, and the Region V Systems governing board will vote June 10, Wittmuss said.

Lutheran Family Services will run the core services for about 3,000 people at the Community Mental Health Center, including outpatient counseling, day treatment, managing medicine and community support. Lutheran Family Services has a history of providing all the services but day treatment, according to information provided county commissioners.

CenterPointe, with a history of providing day rehabilitation services, will run the 24-hour crisis line and the county's day rehabilitation services for about 180 people at MidTown, 2966 O St. CenterPointe provides services to people with addiction and mental health issues in Lincoln.

Omni Behavioral Health will operate psychiatric residential rehabilitation programs for 22 people at The Heather, 2039 Q St. OMNI has said it will retain the current management structure.

The County Board will continue to operate the 15-bed Crisis Center, which provides a short-term program for people who are mentally ill and suicidal or a danger to others. 

After the approval process, Region V Systems staff will begin negotiations on contracts with the three agencies. 

The transition to privatization likely will begin July 1, the beginning of the county's fiscal year, and could take three to six months or longer, Wittmuss said.

But commissioners said they expect the transition to take no more than six months.  

The three agencies have agreed to consider hiring the 70 county employees involved with the mental health programs to be privatized.

The board decided more than a year ago to stop directly providing mental health services to low-income people, and the county likely will save $500,000 to $700,000 a year after the transition period, County Budget Director Dennis Meyer said.

Region V Systems, which oversees mental health services in Southeast Nebraska, will contract with the agencies taking over the services. Funding comes from local, state and federal funds and from Medicaid payments.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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