Bartholomew County Commissioners have approved a 4 percent increase in county funding to Centerstone to provide mental health and addiction treatment to the county’s indigent.

With a commitment to pay the mental health services provider $613,641 this year compared to $590,039 allocated in 2017, elected officials in Bartholomew County also are requesting more accountability in reports on what that amount of support buys.

“We’re looking for specific details on how the money has been spent — not just hearing a list of all the things you do for the community,” council member Laura DeDomenic told Shirley Arney, chief executive for Centerstone of Indiana, who stopped in during a county council work session Tuesday.

Such details do not surface when the board of directors of Centerstone of Indiana meet, however, Arney said.

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Instead, internal information for Centerstone outlines what the organization is doing in all 17 Indiana counties it serves, she said.

“It’s not as easy as saying this is what you paid for in Bartholomew County,” Arney said. “If it were that easy, we would have been doing it all along.”

To illustrate her point, Arney brought up Centerstone’s 24-hour crisis line, available in all communities served by her organization.

If that service just handled Bartholomew County calls, the county council might be able to get the details it wants — but such a service would be too expensive to maintain for just one county, she said.

Coordinated efforts

Council member Jorge Morales said he was looking for assurances that Centerstone is working with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) in Bartholomew County to ensure coordinated efforts, as well as avoid duplication of services.

On that point, Arney provided several examples of coordination.

Centerstone personnel sit on at least three different ASAP committees and have participated in discussions with ASAP about a proposed addiction treatment center for inmates housed at the Bartholomew County Jail.

Morales said his concerns about a possible lack of coordination surfaced after Centerstone purchased a $250,000 building at 1680 Whitney Court Dec. 20 from Southern Indiana Health Organization (SIHO) to serve as a medical-addictions treatment program.

But Arney assured Morales ASAP will have input into what type of program will be run at that facility.

Currently, the agency is considering a small facility that would provide a 20-day program before the patient is moved on to another level of care, Arney said.

“It’s not going to be a money-maker for us,” Arney said. “Our goal is that it will merely cover its costs.”

But input from ASAP will be considered on final decisions regarding need, whether males or females will be served, and the number of beds at the Whitney Court facility, Arney said.

“We work in collaboration,” Arney said. “But at the end of the day, Centerstone will have to make business decisions about running this program.”

Frank conversation

At times, issues raised during the impromptu 30-minute question-and-answer session became quite frank.

One such instance was when DeDomenic said she was informed in November that she heard Centerstone was increasingly sending uninsured patients to Family Service, Inc., which DeDomenic described as a struggling nonprofit that receives no tax support.

“That should not be our practice,” Arney said.

Although Arney promised to look further into the matter, she suggested such claims might be generated by patients who don’t want to pay state-mandated minimal fees. Such claims might also have originated from people who don’t understand the state targets people with severe disabilities or extremely low incomes for tax-supported indigent care.

Arney said she was willing to attend county government meetings once a quarter to address concerns about Centerstone and its role in Bartholomew County.

About Centerstone

Centerstone, a not-for-profit organization, has provided a wide range of mental health, substance abuse, education and integrated health services to Indiana residents for 60 years.

Through more than 60 facilities in 17 Indiana counties, including a base in Columbus at 720 N. Marr Road, Centerstone serves about 25,000 Indiana children, adolescents, adults and seniors each year.

For more information about Centerstone, call 800-344-8802 or visit centerstone.org.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.