Mental health program funded into 2007
November 17, 2006
The intensive mental health program that Pam Cowperthwaite said saved her bipolar son will continue operating into 2007.
Cowperthwaite said she is relieved to hear that Behavioral Health Services, which offers group counseling to 20 area children and teens, was extended indefinitely by Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare, thanks to a grant from the city and through budget cuts.
“I’m thankful that I live in a community that cares enough to support this program and get it back,” she said.
This summer, the hospital announced it would close the outpatient program for adolescents as part of its cost-cutting reorganization that swept out about 50 employees. Following a strong public outcry from patients, parents and local officials, the services were given a six-month reprieve, despite operating in the red. The adult outpatient care was cut.
Duane Runyan, manager of outpatient Behavioral Health Services, said his program is almost in the black, short less than $50,000. He believes the program will continue through 2007.
“We’ve made some changes, and we have gotten support from the city and from the school district. This has allowed us to be more fiscally viable,” he said. “We are very strong at this point.”
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In late September, the department hired Dr. Deborah Steinberg as a new child and adolescent psychiatrist. This was a way to provide services in a needed area, Runyan said. The department could also take on two contract workers, which are not salaried positions.
The adolescent intensive outpatient program received a one-time grant of $25,000 from the city. The school district also has a contract with one of the psychologists.
The program serves from 250-300 clients in its clinic, about the same number as it did before department layoffs, he said.
Mental health is a hard area to recover costs. Insurances often have a low reimbursement rate on mental-health services. The hospital subsidized the outpatient mental health program for $350,000 in 2005.
Cowperthwaite, a fifth-grade teacher at Fremont Elementary School, said the program taught her and her husband how to parent a child with a mental disorder, which affected the whole family.
“Our daughter struggled with being a member of a family with a bipolar child,” she said. “When she was younger, she would think ‘he’s getting all the attention,’ and he did for a very long time. Our family revolved around his sickness. That has changed now. We can’t change the fact that he’s bipolar, but we can change how we react and deal with it.”
Her son is doing well as a Pioneer High School junior.
The Cowperthwaites spend $25 a week on a parent-counseling group, which was free before the reorganization.
“I’d pay twice that,” she said. “I’d pay four times that for it.”
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.