Thursday, March 24, 2011

Valley Mental Health again facing lay-offs?

Posted By on March 24, 2011, 3:57 PM

Shortly after 4 p.m. this Thursday afternoon Valley Mental Health CEO Debra Falvo began a presentation to the private nonprofit's board, which, according to sources, included plans for reducing personnel.---

City Weekly went to the Murray-based offices of VMH's administration building and requested to attend the board meeting. Corporate communications director Chris Katis, citing the meeting as an executive session and so closed to the public, denied the request.

Staff members, who contacted City Weekly anonymously, expressed concern that Falvo would be informing her board that, subsequent to their approval, she will be laying off staff over the next few weeks. One complained of "horrible morale. Everybody is so scared and traumatized." The downsizing was to make Valley more competitive as a bidder to provide services. 

Another employee noted that there was growing concern about Optum Health, the out-of-state company brought into run the Salt Lake County's $55 million annual contract that provides care for its mentally ill. That employee predicted that "they will not be paying for many of the current services that VMH has always paid for." Last spring City Weekly ran a cover story about the impact of Valley's proposed 100-staff lay-off [subsequently scaled back] and restructuring announced in late 2009 on personnel and client morale, as well as, at that time, a deeply troubled relationship with County officials. More recently The Salt Lake Tribune's Julia Lyon wrote a probing story looking at Valley's finances and its use of public dollars.

Meanwhile Valley continues to run a billboard campaign across the Wasatch Front, presumably attempting to build a brand prior to the agency shifting to fees for services in July 1. 

One question, for some, though, remains whether when Optum takes over, if the 25,000 Medicaid-eligible mentally ill Valley clients will have been informed of their new choices and understand what they mean. 

Friday morning Katis declined to comment on events at the board meeting or the fate of Falvo's plan. "If I have anything for you," he said, "I'll let you know."

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