The Hancock County Board of Supervisors during a special meeting on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to advance 50 percent –– or $110,000 of the county's FY 2020 budget allocation –– to Gulf Coast Mental Health to help keep the organization afloat.

On July 16, the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center Board of Commissioners announced that the center would not have "funding to provide services beyond Aug. 11."

GCMHC provides mental health services in Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, and Stone counties.

Satellite offices are located in each county, according to the GCMHC website.

The counties' respective boards of supervisors each appoint one member to the Region XIII Commission, which serves as the board of directors for the GCMH, the website states.

The Hancock County satellite office is located at 819-B Central Ave. in Bay St. Louis.

According to the website, GCMH receives financial support through "federal block grants, Medicaid reimbursements, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, county taxes, contractual agreements, fees for services, and contributions, both direct and through the United Way."

Last week, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health announced that it would advance $1.5 million or 50 percent of its annual allocation to the agency from the 2020 budget and the participating counties were expected to follow suit.

Board attorney Gary Yarborough said Monday that about $2.7 million is expected to be contributed to GCMH.

As part of a Memorandum of Understanding with MDH, GCMH is tasked with providing a sustainable plan, curing billing issues, and prioritizing services, etc.

Yarborough said that GCMH currently operates on a $12 million annual budget or $1 million a month and the advance payments from the participating entities would keep GCMH in operation for about three months.

Supervisor Scotty Adam asked if, with this advance, would GCMH still continue to provide the same services.

GCMH Interim Director Vickie Taylor said that the services currently offered in Hancock County include: Center-based therapy, school-based therapy, psychosocial rehabilitation program, and group home.

"And all four of those services are really critical," she said."We would not discontinue any of those services here in Hancock County."

Taylor said the Department of Mental Health is requiring GCMH to have a third-party auditor which will provide a monthly financial report to the counties.

Candy Murphy, who serves as Hancock County's commissioner on the GCMH board, said the board stopped receiving financial reports last September.

"The rationale was that it was the end of the fiscal year and we were used to that," Murphy said. "So, we usually didn't get much in September or October and in November. We didn't see them again until January."

Murphy said that, by that time last year, the board had started noticing a decline in revenue.

"Primarily because the people in the agency that knew how to bill were no longer there," Murphy said.

Another requirement of GCMH is that is acquire a new chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

Taylor said the organization has already asked for applications and is conducting interviews.

Hancock County Board President Blaine LaFontaine asked Taylor if GCMH could give the board some assurance that it wouldn't come back and ask for more money in November.

Taylor said she couldn't answer that without a CFO at her disposal.

LaFontaine said that one of the things he noticed was that Cenpatico "was not billed at all in 2019?"

Taylor said "that's not accurate."

"We never completely stopped billing any company," she said. "They didn't credential everyone fully so they couldn't get reimbursed for some people."

Taylor said that GCMH also lost its contract with Magnolia in October, and that wasn't discovered until February or March.

"We now have the Magnolia contract back," she said. "All of the companies told us they will work with us. We've had representatives from all of the insurance companies who have come to our agency to work with our board to try to sort through all of that."

The Supervisors expressed concerns about GCMH returning in three months to request more funding, but also agreed that the organization is important to Hancock County and said they don't wish for those services to lapse.

Murphy added that school will be back in session soon and that children's services "brings in a great deal of revenue."

Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar said that prior to utilizing the GCMH's services for mental commitment patients, the cost from 2002 was about $350,000.

Keller added that GCMH is "very important to Hancock County."

The board agreed that going forward, it would also like better communication between the entities and GCMH and more information.

The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 5 at 9 a.m.

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