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Audit Validates Salt Lake County’s New Behavioral Health Model

An independent audit of Salt Lake County’s Behavioral Health Services system was released Tuesday. Officials say it validates the county’s move to a managed-care model.  County Mayor Ben McAdams called for the audit last year following news that provider Valley Behavioral Health (VBH) would discontinue service to hundreds of patients due to budget cuts.

For 24 years, Salt Lake County contracted all public behavioral health services through VBH. But in July 2011, the county moved to a managed care model overseen by OptumHealth.  County Mayor Ben McAdams says the audit shows the new model doubled the number of providers in the network, giving greater choice to consumers, greater transparency, and more price competition.

“This audit has validated that that’s the direction we should continue to go in because the clients are better served with this model, but the audit also showed that there have been some growing pains during that transition,” McAdams says.

In particular, Valley Behavioral Health announced last year that it would discontinue services to about 2200 patients, and focus on clients with serious mental illness.  The audit did not place blame on any one entity, but concluded that rate cuts hastened Valley’s planned transfer of consumers to other providers. In a collaborative effort, county partners eventually reduced the number of clients cut from the rolls to 730, but McAdams says VBH still faces challenges.

“I’ve met with executives and board members at Valley Mental Health, and I have a level of confidence that they are willing to make the tough decisions that need to make in order to provide services,” McAdams says.  Altogether, he says the audit has helped transition the county from finger-pointing to better cooperation. The audit calls for greater accountability though better measurements of treatment outcomes, something McAdams says is a priority.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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