Mental health center bill passed in House

The university would receive more federal funding than the state does.
The Missouri House last week voted to place the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center under MU ownership instead of the state Department of Mental Health as it is now. If under MU ownership, the center would benefit from increased federal funding.

The Missouri House passed a bill last week to transfer the ownership of the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center from the state's Department of Mental Health to MU.

The mental health center, located next to University Hospital, is one of 11 state-funded psychiatric facilities operating within the Department of Mental Health. The center offers training and volunteer opportunities for MU students in several health care related fields, including social work, nursing and psychiatry through agreements with MU.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, sponsored the bill as one of his legislative priorities for this session. Kelly, MU and the Department of Mental Health testified for the bill, which will next go to the state Senate for approval before it becomes effective. The bill's committee summary states the transfer is estimated to have no financial impact on other state funds for at least the next three fiscal years.

"I sponsored this bill because the University of Missouri and the Department of Mental Health have been engaged in negotiations to transfer responsibilities of the center to the university for a matter of months now," Kelly said. "I know both of them want the transfer and I sponsored this bill in order to make that possible."

The transfer of ownership would benefit the mental health center financially, allowing increased federal reimbursements per each bed the center serves.

Although the mental health center contains 69 beds, it operates with about 45 on average.

"Because of the way the federal reimbursement system works, the university can capture much more money from the feds for the mental health center per bed than the state department can," Kelly said.

The bill's committee summary states the center can receive $2,700 daily per bed in federal reimbursements under MU's ownership because it would be a teaching hospital university property. The mental health center receives $300 per day under the ownership of the Department of Mental Health. The bill's committee summary also stated MU would like to have a mental health facility within the university system to raise teaching standards and improve patient care in this field.

"The difference in the amount of federal imbursement available is very significant and it's certainly a big reason for the transfer," Kelly said.

UM Health Care spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said negotiations between the mental health center and MU began several months ago when the center approached MU about a possible transfer of ownership.

"There are many factors regarding the transfer that we're considering," Jenkins said. "We realize there's a critical need for mental health care in this region, and we'd like to do what we can to ensure that it continues."

Mental Health Department spokesman Bob Bax said the transfer is beneficial for both parties.

"The transition of the acute mental health services to the University Hospital will ensure high quality mental health care continues in the Mid-Missouri region and will also ensure integration mental health with physical healthcare," Bax said in an e-mail.

Bax said the mental health center is already preparing its employees for the transfer of ownership.

"We are working to transition the staff at Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center to the university system to make sure the high quality staffing continues and minimize any possible disruption of care for the patients," Bax said.

Kelly said the bill had no opposition in the House and he does not anticipate any opposition in the Senate.

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