With no funding increases for mental health services on the horizon, we find ourselves in a dilemma. In fiscal year 2015, AltaPointe provided care to more than 23,000 individuals. Now that we have merged with Cheaha Regional Mental Health Center, that number will grow to approximately 30,000. Lack of funding becomes an even greater issue when you consider that 60 percent of these patients have no ability to pay for services.
We are committed to the highest quality of care no matter how great the cost. So, how do we continue providing this level of care when the majority of our patients do not have the financial resources to cover healthcare costs?
We also must ask, how do we uphold the quality and efficiency of care when state funds stay level and medical inflationary rates cause funding reductions? Where will we find the dollars?
One of the answers is to follow a growth strategy for our continuum that will create economies of scale, which will give us a better chance to decrease expenses. This approach may appear to oppose logic, yet when carried out carefully, expanding services will help cover the cost of treatment because growth drives down administrative costs as revenue from added services is maximized. Merging with carefully selected partners helps companies like AltaPointe survive, yet mergers are not the game changers this industry or the people with mental health problems need. Medicaid expansion will be the game changer.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley hints that our state wants to expand Medicaid, which is a component of the Affordable Care Act. Yet, that expansion can only come when the Alabama Legislature agrees to it. Not enough lawmakers fall on the side of the expansion delaying the action to vote on this issue.
It is our mission to advocate for the people we care for and the people we employ. In my role not a day goes by that is not dedicated in part to thinking of ways to make Medicaid expansion a reality. We know it would be the one change that would substantially increase revenues to pay for the cost of services.
Until expansion takes place, AltaPointe will continue its short-term growth strategy that can motivate us to be even better stewards of the trust our patients place in us. This strategy offsets the effect of the medical inflationary rate, helps us to avoid service reduction and layoffs, and ensures that everyone in the seven counties we serve will win.
Despite the dilemma we face, it is my hope that every employee will continue searching for ways we can improve services. It is essential that we do not allow distractions to take our focus off doing what’s best for the individuals in our care.
Tuerk Schlesinger, CEO