Crain’s: Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority takes next step in consolidating ‘middle men’

September 9th, 2018
Willie Brooks, CEO of Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority

Crain’s Detroit Business reports on changes being effected by the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority to contract directly with the “Elite 8” providers.


September 09, 2018

Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority takes next step in consolidating ‘middle men’

  • Authority takes next step to eliminate bureaucracy by moving to phase out three managed care provider networks to save $7 million
  • At least 50 employees of the three MCPNs and others will be hired by the authority
  • A fourth MCPN will stay on until Dec. 31 and possibly longer

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is moving at a faster pace to save $7 million in administrative costs by eliminating three managed care provider network organizations by Oct. 1, a fourth by Dec. 31 and by bringing in-house provider contracting for its 80,000 clients.

DWMHA offered to extend by six months the contracts of CareLink Network and ConsumerLink Network until April 1, but the MCPNs notified the authority that they would end their relationship when their contracts expire on Sept. 30. Officials for CareLink and ConsumerLink did not return phone calls for comment.

“They rejected the extension and didn’t give us an explanation,” said Willie Brooks, CEO of DWMHA. “Our plan was to absorb those positions, and we are doing that. It makes a whole lot of sense to do this to serve the people and not be reliant on a third party. There won’t be any difference to providers because we were going to take over that (administrative) process anyway.”

Brooks said the authority has already hired 50 workers to take on the contracts of Integrated Care Alliance Inc., CareLink Network and CommunityLink Network. The MCPN contract with Community Living Services Inc. will end Dec. 31, but CLS will continue on as a provider agency with the authority.

Jim Dehem, CEO of Community Living, told Crain’s that DWMHA asked the behavioral health agency to submit a contract proposal for next year. He said CLS has not received a response yet from the authority.

DWMHA employs about 250 and in 2019 will increase its budget to about $770 million from $750 million this year.

Crain’s reported June 14 that DWMHA would phase out contracts with the four MCPNs, which contract with behavioral health providers and direct care workers.

Brooks said he continued the process to consolidate administrative layers that was begun by former CEO Tom Watkins before he stepped down last year. “They knew this was coming. We are only completing the process that Tom started and couldn’t get it done at the time,” he said.

Several sources affiliated with some of the four MCPNs complained to Crain’s about the process the authority took to decide which companies it would keep going forward.

“We followed federal rules that gave us the opportunity to do this. We informed the (Michigan) Department of Health and Human Services and the department was fully aware and supportive of what we did,” Brooks said. “We didn’t end any contracts. We allowed the contracts to expire. Most knew what was going on.”

Brooks said the authority’s two concerns are that clients have no interruption of services and that providers get paid without delay.

“It won’t be difficult to take over the contracts because we do that now,” Brooks said. “We pay providers; they pay providers; we managed some care, and they manage some care. We are just expanding what we have done. Instead of duplicated claims processing and rules, we will do it all.”

Brooks said he has met with the eight largest provider agencies, known as the “elite 8” because of their size and range of services, to discuss expanding and coordinating services. They are Neighborhood Service Organization, North East Guidance Center, TEAM, Detroit Central Cities, Southwest Solutions, Community Living Services, Lincoln Behavioral Health and The Guidance Center.

“We talked with them about providing holistic care. That is behavioral health, physical health, economic support, spiritual and housing. We would like providers doing all five of those, maybe not completely, but any provider that has the ability to do that, we’d like them to do.”

Brooks said DWMHA also contracts with more than 300 other smaller, specialty providers that offer limited services in one or two holistic areas.

“We have different categories of providers. We don’t want to eliminate (providers), but we would like some consistency in the network so there isn’t a huge variance for our clients” when they seek care, said Brooks, adding that he and his staff have been holding private and public meetings to explain the changes and new direction of the authority.

Brooks also said the authority is making progress in selecting up to three crisis centers to offer needed services in Wayne County for clients.

“Once we make the change in our MCPNs, we will be able to put our full attention on crisis care, the correction system and doing something more with integrated care” of physical and behavioral health, Brooks said. “I’d like to see three crisis centers in Wayne County. We’d like to build out a center like Common Ground” has in Oakland County.

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