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MR Update #05-03: Harrisburg State Hospital, Medicaid Issues, HCSIS and OMR Updates, Health Risk Sessions, Fragile X
February 7, 2005

State Hospital Closure
The Department of Public Welfare’s intention to close Harrisburg State Hospital by December continues to generate media coverage and stakeholder concern. Local legislators (Senators Vance and Piccola and Representatives Nailor and Buxton) are introducing House and Senate bills that would prevent the state from closing any state hospital until after a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report can be completed that details how the state will provide community treatment for discharged patients.

According to the Harrisburg Patriot News, since the announcement legislators, county mental health administrators, and advocates have cited major shortages of community-based mental health services and waiting lists for those services. They said programs must be expanded and better funded before they can serve additional clients. There are 125 patients, 39 dually diagnosed with mental health and mental retardation, currently served at the hospital.

According Deputy Secretary Joan Erney, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, tapping more Medicaid funds to treat the mentally ill is one of the reasons for the state’s decision to close the hospital and discharge the patients into the community. Community-based services are paid by a state and federal match, but state hospital costs are paid by the state.

In an effort to provide information to everyone concerned during the closure/consolidation of Harrisburg State Hospital with Danville and Wernersville State Hospitals, the state is using its web site, www.dpw.state.pa.us. Type in the search word "closure" to gain access to the correct information. Any problems on accessing the site may be directed to Lisa Robison at 717-787-2831 or lrobison@state.pa.us.

Medicaid Issues
1. The new US Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt has accused some states of mismanaging their Medicaid programs and cheating the federal government and taxpayers of as much as $40 billion over a decade. He stated that some state officials are using a variety of loopholes to shift the cost of Medicaid services (which are matched by state dollars). Medicaid is expected to cost the federal government $190 billion this year. Some of the issues he wants to have addressed include:

  • Double-dipping: states overpay providers, get the overpayment returned to them, and spend the same dollars a second time.
  • Inflating overhead costs: states shifting costs to the federal budget for administration. (Source: Harrisburg Patriot-News 02/02/05)

2. The National Governors Association, including Governor Rendell, is planning frequent meetings with federal officials to address the administration and congressional proposals to limit the federal share of Medicaid spending.
3. Governor Rendell has announced that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved the state’s nursing home assessment plan that will provide an additional $1 billion in federal funding to nursing homes over the next four years.
4. Pennsylvania will also be implementing the Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded assessment. This 6% assessment will be matched with federal dollars and is expected to generate $17 million in new federal funds to be used to reduce the mental retardation waiting list.
5. State Representatives Mike Veon and Jake Wheatley are introducing legislation that would require an immediate study to determine how many state citizens employed by big corporations are collecting benefits from the Medical Assistance program. These lawmakers want to find out if the state is essentially giving companies a multi-million dollar subsidy by paying for health care that the companies should provide. According to Rep. Wheatley, "Medial Assistance is there for people who are truly in need, not to help make big corporations even richer. We are facing a $1 billion shortfall in our Medical Assistance Program this year which could lead to having to cut benefits to some people."

HCSIS Update
HCSIS Release 4.2.1 will go live on February 24. This release will have provided information on the enhancement that allows counties to access provider information regarding services. The Help Desk at 866-444-1264 is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To date over 2.3 million case comments have been entered into HCSIS.

Health Risk Profile Sessions
The Office of Mental Retardation (OMR) is using a Health Risk Profile (HRP) to gather health information about individuals living in residential settings. This information is used by the Health Care Quality Units to develop training topics and by OMR for quality management. The HRP process is being revised and input is sought from those having experience with the HRP. Feedback sessions are being held across the state in February and March to solicit this input. Attached is the registration form.

OMR Update

  • The latest issue of the quality management newsletter is available. It addresses the connections between the Planning Advisory Committee and the Quality Management Committees. For a copy contact Kathy Wisser, c-kwisser@state.pa.us.
  • Two regional program operations directors have been hired by OMR. They are Pamela Kuhno for eastern operations and Nancy Murray for western operations. These positions provide oversight of the state centers, monitor services and the development of quality management programs, manage the waiting list, and ensure county MH/MR county program compliance.
  • OMR has funded a Community Mental Retardation Advocacy Project to be coordinated by Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy (PPA). The advocates will focus on providing assistance to individuals to facilitate access to appropriate services and investigate abuse, neglect, and violations of human rights. New PPA staff is Karen Pasqualicchio - northeast region, Martine DeLorenzo - southeast region, Dawn Rudinski - central region, and Cliff Coburn - western region.

Fragile X
Sention, Inc. has entered into an exclusive licensing and research collaboration agreement with Merck and Company to develop potential treatments for Fragile X Syndrome, the most commonly inherited form of mental retardation. Sention is a pharmaceutical development company that focuses on the advancement of drugs to treat cognitive impairments and other central nervous disorders. For additional information contact dmantus@sentionpharma.com.

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