Polk battles to keep funds for PVS, detox after state mental health cuts

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Western Highlands has proposed cutting funding to vocational services in Polk County and to a detox program at Pardee Hospital that is Polk County&squo;s primary detox center.

Whitson, who is Polk&squo;s representative on the Western Highlands board, told commissioners he is fighting to keep Polk&squo;s programs funded.

&dquo;I intend to propose using Western Highland&squo;s fund balance before our vocational services or detox at Pardee is taken,&dquo; Whitson said.

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Other issues, Whitson said, are that the state does not contract with local hospitals, including St. Luke&squo;s, Pardee or Asheville, for mental health patients, even though all hospitals want to contract with the state. Whitson told commissioners that the state instead contracts with hospitals such as in Cannon, which is hours away and the county continually has to travel long distances to house those patients.

If St. Luke&squo;s Hospital had a state contract for mental health patients, for instance, the hospital could keep patients for up to seven days, Whitson said, which would bring funding to the hospital and cut down tremendously on travel time for transports.

Whitson says he is trying to work out solutions for Polk and mentioned the great progress Polk County has made locally with mental health services. But with major cuts he says it will be difficult for that progress to continue.

Whitson also said he is opposing a current movement by state officials who want county managers to have ending terms on the boards, which would place most county managers off the board by Nov. 2010. He described county managers&squo; roles on the board as vital in mental health progress because managers are typically on the board longer than elected officials and therefore gain a knowledge of the ins and outs of the system.

The state mandated reform for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services in 2001 and required counties to group together to deliver services. Western Highlands consists of the counties of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey.