Moran wins support for in-depth discussion in January of Licensed Mental Health Reimbursement Program

Four providers would collaborate on services to families and children

Commissioner Michael Moran. File image

Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran has won the support of his colleagues for a more in-depth discussion in early January about the establishment of what Moran called a Licensed Mental Health Reimbursement Pilot Program.

During his report to the other commissioners as part of their regular meeting on Dec. 12, Moran said he had “an amazing meeting” in late November with “some wonderful people in the community.”

All of them are leaders of organizations that are “on the front lines, dealing with families that have youth at risk,” from teens to 4-year-olds, he continued.

The meeting was a “fact-finding get-together,” Moran added. The participants were Michelle Kapreilian, CEO of the Forty Carrots Family Center in Sarasota; Kristie Skoglund, CEO of the Florida Center for Early Childhood in Sarasota; Heather Todd, executive director of Teen Court; and Helene Lotman, president and CEO of the JFCS of the Suncoast.

They discussed the potential use of part of the balance of the county money set aside for behavioral health care providers for the current fiscal year, Moran continued. The total of those funds “is in excess of a million dollars,” he said.

The goal with the pilot program, he explained, would be to try to get licensed mental health care professionals into the homes of families with at-risk youth. However, he noted, telehealth visits also could be utilized.

Moran has noted on a number of occasions his strong belief that the county should fund services that can assist children with mental health care issues at earlier stages, to try to prevent the situations from becoming aggravated and more problematic as the children grow older.

For example, he indicated during the Dec. 12 discussion, a household might have substance abuse or domestic violence issues that have affected one or more of the children.

The four nonprofit leaders in the meeting he conducted pointed out that both licensed professionals and “licensed-eligible” professionals could visit such families, Moran added, noting that a “licensed-eligible” mental health care provider would be akin to a person who is an apprentice in a trade.

The representatives of the nonprofits came up with three specific types of licensed professionals who could provide the services, Moran said:

  • Licensed mental health counselors.
  • Licensed clinical social workers.
  • Licensed marriage and family therapists.

Then Moran explained that he would like to discuss with his board colleagues in January a six-month pilot program that would begin on Feb. 1, 2024 and run through July 31, 2024.

The commissioners in August 2024 could address the results, he added.

As he explained more about the discussion that he had with the health care providers, Moran told his colleagues that one point he made “over and over and over” was that the process has to be “incredibly simple.”
He provided handouts to the other commissioners with more details.

The visits would be handled by professionals associated with one of the four nonprofits above, Moran continued. A tracking code of some sort that would be compliant with the federal patient privacy act, HIPPA, would be used, so no names or Social Security numbers of clients would be on the forms used to document the services.

However, he explained, the tracking code would be critical to enabling audits of the county taxpayer funding spent on the services.

The nonprofits would identify the type of professional who handled the counseling in each situation, he continued.

The not-to-exceed rate for those services, Moran indicated — based on his discussions with the health care providers — would be $150 per hour. None of the four organizations could receive more than $50,000 from the county during the trial period, Moran said.

As noted on one of his handouts, each of the nonprofit providers would submit a request to the county for reimbursement of the services. That form would include an affidavit that listed the date of the service and the name of the professional who provided it. The form also would call for the detail about whether that individual was licensed or license-eligible.

Then the type of counseling provided would be cited, as in “Family,” “One-on-One,” or “Group.”

This is a sample of the reimbursement form, with the affidavit to be finalized with the Office of the County Attorney. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Moran added that, if his colleagues were interested in pursuing the pilot program, he readily would volunteer to work with the Office of the County Attorney on the wording for the affidavit.

He stressed that if someone lied on the form, that person would be lying to a government entity that was providing tax money for the service. Such deceit, he added, would result in “severe ramifications” for the individual, including the potential loss of license “and other legal bad things.”

Questions and consensus

After Moran concluded his comments, Commissioner Neil Rainford responded, “The one thing that I would  just weigh in on … is clearly defining ‘license-eligible.’ I just want to make sure it’s not a play on words to certain individuals. We all potentially could be ‘license-eligible,’ right?” he added with a laugh.

Nonetheless, Rainford acknowledged, the term “sounds like that’s an industry standard,” based on what Moran had explained.

“Your instincts are great, Commissioner,” Moran replied. In fact, Moran noted, about 30 to 40 minutes of the discussion that he had with the four nonprofit leaders focused on his concern about the term. “It was a new wording to me. In their world, it’s very defined.”

Then Commissioner Joe Neunder said of the pilot program proposal, “This is a great idea.” However, like Rainford, he had concerns about the “license-eligible” term.

Neunder noted that, as a health care provider himself — he is a chiropractor — he is familiar with statutory definitions in regard to licensing.

Still, he said, it will be interesting to see how the proposal progresses. Neunder did commend the plan for the nonprofits to be able to produce “tangibly, quantifiable data. They’re going to be able to come back to us with outcomes.”

Commissioner Joe Neunder. File image

Then Neunder told Moran, “Kudos to you.”

As for the four nonprofits whose leaders with whom Moran had met, Neunder added, “These … I think are topnotch in our community. I think we all know that.”

Commissioner Mark Smith also voiced his appreciation to Moran for proposing the pilot program.

When Chair Ron Cutsinger asked for consensus to dedicate time during the board’s regular meeting on Jan 10, 2024 to discuss the proposal in more depth, he found no opposition.

County Attorney Joshua Moye told Moran, “I can definitely work with you on the affidavit language.”

Moran thanked his colleagues for their support.