Proaction thankful for United Way's commitment

October 5, 2009
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State lawmakers made more cuts to the Department of Community Health for the fiscal year that started this month, and that means there are fewer state dollars available to help those who don’t have private insurance coverage or don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

The same scenario holds true for nonprofit organizations that service this low-income population, as groups like the Proaction Behavioral Health Alliance are receiving fewer dollars from the state.

“We’re seeing a declining capacity to serve those who have real needs in terms of both substance abuse problems as well as mental illness,” said Proaction President Michael Reagan. “So funding does become a critical issue.”

Reagan said he understood the need lawmakers had to reduce spending from the general fund, which supplies most of the health care dollars that are not part of a public insurance program. But he also said those cuts affected some of the area’s neediest residents.

One agency that didn’t put those people at further risk was the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Despite fewer contributions this past year, the agency kept its funding commitment to Proaction intact by digging into its reserve.

“Even though it fell short of its goal, United Way chose to dip into its reserves and hold all of the partner agencies whole. So at a time when the rainy day has really come, in terms of putting these monies aside for rainy days, they chose to do that. That decision has helped us maintain that part of the safety net that provides care to people who come to us for outpatient mental health services. I think that is commendable,” said Reagan.

“Last year, just to give you a flavor, we served well over 1,200 individuals who had no insurance and who had a serious mental illness. … And we were able to provide care for them — both psychiatric care and outpatient care — and that is the population that is most at risk because of the cuts to the general fund by the state of Michigan.”

Reagan was also grateful that lawmakers didn’t dig into the state liquor tax during the last fiscal year as they did in 2007. Half the tax collected on the sale of hard liquor is supposed to go to counties for substance abuse services, and legislators kept every bit of the estimated $50 million two years ago to plug a hole in the general fund.

Kent County was supposed to have received about $3 million then, and $1.5 million of that amount would have gone to network 180 to distribute to agencies such as Proaction.

Proaction provides substance abuse services through Project Rehab. Its community treatment centers help those leaving prison to reenter society. The agency also offers life guidance services through outpatient counseling and wellness programs, and an employee assistance center that helps workers with problems.

As for the organization’s future, Reagan said Proaction must do a better job of reaching the Medicaid population in need of mental-health services. He felt his agency would be able to do that once the Heart of the City Health Center is open and the comprehensive model Proaction is creating there with Cherry Street Health Services and Touchstone innovare is operating. (See story on page 8.)

“They’re out there, but not always identified,” said Reagan of those Medicaid-eligible. “And an integrated-care model will give us a better avenue to be able to assess that.”  HQ

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