In more news: On April 26, the Committee on Health (At-large CM Catania, chair) held a public hearing on the proposed FY 2011 budget for the Department of Mental Health. This is what the CM had to say at the opening of the hearing:
We are here today for a review of the fiscal year 2011 budget for the Department of Mental Health. At almost $187 million, this proposal is a 9.5 percent decrease from the approved FY10 budget – a reduction of over $19.6 million dollars. However, even with this reduction I believe the proposed budget before us represents a responsible approach to maintaining service delivery during these difficult economic times.
Though we will discuss many specific details within the proposed budget throughout the day, I want to raise a few points from the outset. I am pleased to see that with the opening of the new St. Elizabeth's hospital we will have not only a more appropriate clinical home for those who need inpatient care but will achieve significant cost savings for the Department. Fixed costs alone associated with the new facility will produce a savings of over $8.5 million in local funds. I also want to commend the Department on its efforts to increase Medicaid billing for certain services. In FY11 we expect to see significant savings by shifting Medicaid-eligible costs to federal resources. Finally, I believe the Department has taken another important step toward transparency in its operations. The proposed FY11 budget presents a new organizational structure for the Department, one that more appropriately aligns dollars with Department functions, programs and services. This transition allows the Committee, community advocates, and District residents alike to better understand and track Department spending based on actual programs rather than arbitrary budget codes.
There are, however, a few concerns I must also raise. A major issue discussed during the Department’s FY09 oversight hearing was the continued existence of external mandates, both the Dixon Consent Decree and the DOJ-St. Elizabeth's Settlement Agreement. I want to be sure that the proposed FY11 budget does not adversely impact our ability to meet the requirements set forth in each so that we can continue efforts to regain full control over the development and implementation of policies and programs. In addition, we need to ensure that the services provided to some of our most vulnerable residents, including children and youth, are not disproportionately impacted by the proposal before us.
Before we hear from today’s witnesses, I want to thank Director Steve Baron for the work he has done to ensure that the budget before us addresses the needs of District residents. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Department staff and their willingness to work with the Committee to review and refine the budget proposal.