Photo Credit: Gabriel C. Perez/KUT
Tuesday, September 5, 2023, Olivia Aldridge, KUT
Austin Travis County’s mental health authority, Integral Care, voted Thursday to approve a budget that cuts nearly 10 percent of its workforce. In addition to the 48 people subject to layoffs, 67 vacancies have also been eliminated.
Employees of the union United Workers of Integral Care said the layoffs would put additional strain on staff already struggling to meet the needs of their large client base. As of 2022, Integral Care is reported to be serving 27,550 of her people, making it the largest mental health service provider in the region.
Megan Moriarty, an interviewer and counselor at Integrals Care’s Second Street Clinic, said some patients without health insurance were already unable to get the services they needed due to lack of organizational resources. Ta.
“We don’t have the staff to do that. – “We’re already understaffed before the cuts are made, before the program is wiped out,” Moriarty said Thursday at Integral Care’s budget meeting.
The agency’s fiscal 2024 budget is $131.5 million, more than $22 million less than last year’s budget. Officials attributed the drop largely to an unexpected shift in funding Integral Care receives from federal and state sources.
As the local mental health authority, Integral Care receives funding from the county and the city of Austin, as well as Central Health, a public hospital district in Travis County. However, state funding sources make up the largest percentage of the budget.
Previously, state funding was primarily provided by the federal 1115 Medicaid waiver. In states that choose not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, these waivers provide funding for programs that provide care to uninsured and low-income patients. But Texas’ 1115 Medicaid waiver was temporarily put in jeopardy when the Biden administration contested its renewal in 2021. eventually fellTexas continues to adjust how it supports organizations like Integral Care, pouring money through state finances. charity care program and directed payment program (Democratic Party).
The agency’s chief operating officer, Dawn Handley, said these programs would provide less flexibility in how the funds are used. Medicaid 1115 acted like a subsidy to support the entire program, but the state’s new model ties funding to the number of service units an organization provides. Handley said Integral Care failed to provide as many services as the state hoped during fiscal 2022 and as a result would have to return $1.6 million to the state.
Another result is that Integral Care is officially terminating several programs, including the 15th Street Respite Center and Mood Disorder Clinic. Officials said services offered through these programs will be incorporated into other integral care products.
Additionally, the organization’s leaders said the $4 million expected from Congress did not materialize during the session. Instead, lawmakers approved only $400,000 in annual payments over the next two years.
Integral Care leaders have sought subsidies and other financial resources to cover unforeseen losses, but they didn’t make it in time for this year’s budget, Handley said.
“(We) worked hard to reduce the shortfall as much as possible,” he said at a budget forum in early August. “In addition to looking at new and existing sources of funding, we also looked at ways to reduce administrative costs, etc. We will continue this effort next year.”
After many Integral Care employees and customers expressed concern about the job cuts at Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to approve the job cuts and budget cuts with a warning. – Affected employees will now receive 12 weeks’ notice before their positions are removed, instead of 6. Integral Care also provides these employees with information about positions that are becoming vacant due to potential new sources of income.
In a statement, union leadership said the change was an improvement but “not a sweeping victory”. UWIC said it will look to local funders who could provide assistance over the next three months.
“The union is now urging elected leaders of the City of Austin and Travis County to use this 12-week period to urgently work with (the Integrated Care Board) to prevent layoffs and cutbacks to services. We are calling on them to secure additional funding,” union officials said. in a statement.
This story is austin monitorpress partnership with KUT.
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