A private mental health services provider based in Salt Lake City moved to drop hundreds of patients, essentially renouncing responsibility for those deemed to be "doing well." The mayor has called for an independent investigation.
Mayor Ben McAdams expressed "outrage" over the decision by the mental health care provider, a not-for-profit entity that contracts with the the Salt Lake County and nearby Summit And Tooele Counties, as well as with the state of Utah.
"I'm quite frankly outraged at Valley Mental Health's decision to reduce their clients," McAdams told reporters. "I called the CEO [Gary Larcenaire] of Valley Mental Health, expressed my outrage with what I felt was a poor business decision and mismanagement and really not compassionate to the 2,000 lives that would be affected by this decision," he said.
Valley Mental Health sent a letter to hundreds of patients that read in part," for those who are doing well, we will stop providing services."
Rachelle Graham was among the mental health patients who received a letter of termination from the provider. "It just said as of August 1 you will no longer be a consumer at Valley," she told reporters. "I don't know what I'm going to do without them."
The commotion began several years ago when Salt Lake County officials asked providers to reduce rates for patients in the face of state and federal budget cuts, while also contracting with Optum Health, with comprises 200 providers in the county including Valley Mental Health. Of those 200 providers, only Valley Mental Health declined to reduce rates when asked.
McAdams says he's now pushing for an independent audit of the provider.
However, Larcenaire, the provider's longtime president and CEO, pointed to a $5 million budget shortfall, saying the gap must be closed somehow. "They're not being cut," Larcenaire said of the patients who received letters. "They're being transitioned."
Larcenaire also said the provider has done it's best to make cuts elsewhere. "We've done enormous cuts, all throughout the organization," he said. "We've reduced our labor costs in the last 12 months by over $350,000 per month."
Larcenaire sought to reassure patients that another provider in the system would assume their care.
"Trust the system," he said. "Call a new provider. Arrange a new appointment, and I think before long you'll realize that you've transitioned, and everything is going to be OK."
However, Graham said the transition to another provider would mean a change of doctors and therapists. "It's a huge disruption," she said. "What am I going to do now? How am I going to maintain my treatment and my recovery? It's always been something that could easily fall apart."
Larcenaire said he welcomed the mayor's call for an audit as he supports transparency.
Below is video from local Fox 13 News: