Delusion Or Optimism?
by Mark Scaramella, June 15, 2016
The Supervisors and County staff are either faking it or they're genuinely pleased at the otherwise invisible transition of Mental Health services from Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group to the Ukiah-based Redwood Quality Management Company, the former a private business, the latter also a private business run by Mr. and Mrs. Camiile Schraeder. Privatized mental health has been a disaster for Mendocino County's proliferating population of the mentally ill, but we live in hope that the Ukiah privateers will at least help a few lost souls as the County transitions back to public mental health services centralized at Sheriff Allman's proposed facility. Privatized mental health, with the mentally ill serving as funding units, is priced at about $7.5 annual million to the privateer, about twenty annual mil when the remaining (and also invisible) County mental health services are factored in. It's all a huge debacle.
Dr. Janine Miller, the County’s recently promoted Director of Mental Health, appeared before the Board last week with her new boss, the impressively articulate and to-the-point brisk, Tammy Moss-Chandler, hired last month at nice money from Merced County.
Responding to a question from Supervisor John McCowen, Ms. Miller said that Ortner had “about 400” clients in March based on a list she had and the March 2016 Ortner billings.
Supervisor Dan Gjerde, referring to the agenda item to add another $400k to the Ortner contract, said, “This is getting considerable public interest. People on the Coast are asking why we’re giving Ortner an extra $400k if they’re just going away.”
Ms. Moss-Chandler explained that bills are still making their golden way through the service billing pipeline and the total amount will exceed the $7.2 million she was already authorized to give to Ortner. “So this is to pay for actual billable services,” insisted Moss-Chandler. “But it may not be that much. It’s just that we need this to be able to bill for the federal dollars for the mandated services provided.”
Nobody asked why the $7.2 million had been exceeded for “services” in the first place, services that have been mostly invisible to local hospitals and physicians and the Sheriff’s Department who have all complained about their non-existence.
Supervisor Mccowen asked why Ortner seemed to be slow in providing various documents that the County wanted, Ms. Miller explained that if Ortner had not been terminated prematurely, these documents would have been due in a matter of years, not right away, due to the long delays in billing and reimbursements. But since Ortner is being terminated, Ortner needs to provide the docs earlier than expected, and it’s taking time. So much time that Ortner needs an extra $64k (over the $400k) to maintain staff to provide the billing documents before Ortner becomes one more sad chapter in Mendocino County history, bunco division. Ms. Moss-Chandler added that “these items are being resolved and OMG is working cooperatively to deliver all the items called for.”
Supervisor Gjerde asked if there was a 10% holdback provision in the Ortner contract “to make sure of performance.”
“All prepayments have been made already,” replied Ms. Moss-Chandler. “There’s no contract provision that states that.”
CEO Carmel Angelo added, “I am in communication with Mr. Ortner, so these questions are being asked. I have assurance for a successful closeout. What you will see on June 21 is the [$64k] four-month contract [extension] to cover staff to continue billing for rest of the contract.”
Translation: Mendo has to pay Ortner to bill the County, but apparently Mendo hasn’t paid enough. "Billing" is clearly the most important "service" Ortner provides.
Supervisor Carre Brown, in full pollyanna mode, commended “everyone involved.” Supervisor Tom Woodhouse noted how bad the situation had become but added that Ms. Miller was doing “a good job in a challenging situation.” Supervisor Hamburg thought the transition “could have been worse. But it’s going better than I expected.” (You'd think Hamburg had walked up on a two-car collision, not the driver of one of the cars. He's always thought Ortner was a swell idea, probably because he personally benefitted from the arrangement.)
Supervisor Gjerde said he would “reluctantly” vote for the additional $400k and the $64k, adding, “But staff should hold back additional funds to make sure documents are submitted in timely manner.”
The only person to address the Board during public expression was Dr. Mark Montgomery, Ortner’s local senior rep. “I listened to comments about lack of performance, lack of service,” grumbled Montgomery. “But the timing of this is per county staff. We want the transition to be as smooth as possible. If you look at the numbers — no one has looked at the numbers. [Oooh, yes they have, Doctor, that’s why you were asked to leave.] Our commitment is that the transition go smoothly. We are not trying to line our pockets. We expect that reports will be done in timely manner. The client count now is 562 in the system of care. ICMS [Integrated Crisis Management Services, an Ortner subcontractor in Ukiah] has 375, the others are in Manzanita [another Ornter Ukiah subcontractor for non-crisis cases] and rest are open clients on the coast. It’s amazing that you have not received that information. The total will rise to about 600. But it’s 562 right now. We will support the transition. It’s a fantastic system of care. It’s unfortunate that [Ortner’s critics] have not met with me or our organization. We want to leave the system better than it was.”
Whatever, dude, as the young people say,
No response from the Supes. What would be the point now? Something like $20 million (over three years) is long gone and nobody knows what the County or the mentally ill got for it — other than lots and lots of bills, many of which, of course, remain in the pipeline.