COLUMBIA — The state Department of Mental Health is moving toward transferring responsibility for its mental health center in Columbia to MU Health Care.
According to a memo sent to staff Wednesday, Keith Schafer, director of the Department of Mental Health, said the department has been in ongoing discussions with MU Health Care to assume responsibility around July 1 for acute psychiatric beds at Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center.
Schafer said talks had been serious for about the past month and a half.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the transfer. Under the proposal, MU Health Care would operate approximately 70 inpatient beds, which represents no loss of capacity.
The future of this deal still has some uncertainty because MU Health Care, which includes University Hospital, would need to agree to the deal. The agreement would also need legislative approval, Schafer said.
“The university has not made its final decision whether or not it wants to do this,” he said.
“A number of renovations need to be made to make it a state-of-the-art mental health center,” Schafer said about the mid-Missouri facility located near University Hospital.
Schafer’s memo also acknowledges a Department of Mental Health's decision to handle expected increases in the number of clients who are soon to be eligible for Medicaid. These individuals have anticipated addiction problems, developmental disabilities or mental illnesses.
Under federal regulations, community hospital systems, such as MU Health Care, receive federal Medicaid reimbursements for inpatient psychiatric costs at far higher rates than state-run hospitals.
“The federal reimbursements for Medicaid for community hospitals are significantly better than state-operated hospitals,” Schafer said.
The memo also declared that current state employees at Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center will have job opportunities after the transfer.
Schafer said one of the conditions of the negotiations is to make sure the staff at mental health center would remain responsible for the transferred patients..
Schafer plans to meet with Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center staff Friday to discuss the recommendations.