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Northern Pines could cut psychiatric services

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Northern Pines could cut psychiatric services
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson 56482

Substantial financial losses from psychiatric services have caused Northern Pines Mental Health Center to consider discontinuing psychiatric services offered there, according to mental health officials.

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Mark Bublitz, executive director of Northern Pines, said the final decision will be made this November following two years of study. He said the center has incurred substantial losses ranging from $180,000 to $250,000 for more than four years.

According to Bublitz, insurance reimbursement for psychiatric services is poor and does not cover the actual cost of covering psychiatric services. He said he thinks many insurance companies fear psychiatric services are a financial black hole.

"Care for mental illness is some of the most effective treatments there is," said Bublitz in defense of the importance of psychiatry.

At the July 18 Wadena County Social Services Board meeting, director Paul Sailer said Wadena County has paid $230 of its $3,000 yearly budget to Northern Pines so far this year because the budget is set up for people not on health insurance and most people who use Northern Pines are insured.

According to Bublitz, 68.8 percent of Northern Pines clients served during the first six months of 2006 had their psychiatric services reimbursed from a public source. He said public sources include Medicare, Medicaid, Prepaid Medical Assistance and county-funded. Other clients use private insurance and Bublitz said the center provides a small number of people who have no coverage with free service.

The Minnesota Legislature mandated a 23 percent increase in Medicaid reimbursement effective on July 1, 2007, and Bublitz said this increase is a step in the right direction, but still does not cover the actual cost of psychiatry.

County Commissioner David Mattila is on the Board of Directors at Northern Pine Mental Health Center and he said if the center discontinues its psychiatric services, it will affect Wadena County.

Bublitz said so far this year Northern Pines has provided adult rehabilitative mental health services to 205 adults with a serious mental illness, including 97 residents of Wadena County. Bublitz added that in 2005, 90 percent of adults who live with a mental illness and received ARMHS were served by Northern Pines, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services data for Wadena County.

Bublitz said the United States as a whole is experiencing a critical shortage of psychiatrists. He said he believes a decline in psychiatric services will affect all mental health patients in the region as there will be fewer psychiatrists available.

Bublitz said that 20 percent of Americans deal with some form of mental illness during their life and mental illnesses account for five of the top 10 causes of disability in the world.

"We hope to find a way to sustain psychiatry and to be able to provide this to the people who need it," Bublitz said.

sarah@wadenapj.com

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