County threatens ADAMHS levy funding over crisis service center fallout

County partners request more input on crisis services; ADAMHS recommends Netcare for hotline

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Montgomery County leaders and their partners criticized Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services in a joint letter sent last week amid the fallout with RI International, saying they could not “in good conscience continue to substantiate” ADAMHS’ funding from the human services levy without more assurances.

County commissioners provide $21.4 million in human services levy funding to support Montgomery County ADAMHS and the public treatment systems for behavioral health, the joint letter from county leaders said to Montgomery County ADAMHS.

“We cannot in good conscience continue to substantiate that amount of funding without some assurances that we and community partners will have a voice in the investments in behavioral health services administered for the well-being of our community members,” the letter says.

RI International, which had been providing crisis services and operating the county’s crisis hotline for the past two years, abruptly announced recently it was severing ties with ADAMHS. The company had previously been criticized for not providing services many county leaders thought should have been implemented.

The joint letter, sent to Montgomery County ADAMHS and its executive director, Helen Jones-Kelley, requests that the county partners have more input on contracts with crisis service providers.

“Maintaining a commitment to operate in a silo is baffling, damaging and counter to our community’s spirit of collaboration,” the letter says.

The majority of the members of the Montgomery County ADAMHS board are appointed by the county commissioners, according to Ohio revised code, and the county commissioners also determine the size of the board. Eight of the current members were appointed by county commissioners and six by Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director.

ADAMHS board has decisions ahead

On Thursday, Montgomery County ADAMHS leaders announced they are recommending the crisis services provider Netcare, which is based in Central Ohio, to replace RI International and manage calls to its Crisis Now hotline starting Thursday, May 23.

Montgomery County ADAMHS will hold a special program and services committee meeting Monday evening to discuss its recommendation of Netcare for the Crisis Now hotline.

“The ADAMHS leadership team has been laser-focused on building a seamless solution to deliver crisis services with the announcement that RI International would cease services on May 22,” Jones-Kelley said.

Netcare has more than 30 years of experience in crisis work in Ohio, currently working in 22 counties, she said.

“We welcome this service to Montgomery County and are pleased that Netcare leadership responded so quickly to the need in our community,” Jones-Kelley said.

“We are glad to come to the table with a solution for crisis calls so quickly for Montgomery County. We bring decades of experience to this work and understand Ohio’s crisis care landscape. Our team will be ready on May 23 to deliver the highest level of care that the residents of Montgomery County deserve,” said Dr. Brian Stroh, CEO of Netcare.

Under the agreement, Netcare will answer calls to the Crisis Now call center from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days per week. From midnight to 8 a.m., calls will be answered by 988.

Netcare hopes to employ some of the staff currently working at the call center, Montgomery County ADAMHS said.

The Crisis Now phone number will remain 833-580-2255.

County partners criticize ADAMHS

In addition to Montgomery County commissioners Debbie Lieberman, Judy Dodge and Carolyn Rice, the joint letter was signed by Montgomery County Probate Judge David Brannon, Sheriff Rob Streck, County Administrator Michael Colbert, and GDAHA president and CEO Sarah Hackenbracht.

Barbara Marsh, the director of counseling and wellness services at Wright State University, and Haley Carretta, director Montgomery County Office of Strategic Initiatives, were also included on the letter.

The letter addressed other points of contention, which have taken place over the last three years.

“ADAMHS did not seek stakeholder input on the Crisis Now Model, which was vital to mission accomplishment and which failed to lay the groundwork for the crisis hotline to merge into 9-8-8,” the letter says.

The letter addressed the crisis receiving center, which failed to meet the partners’ expectations, including not being able to hold someone who was “pink-slipped,” meaning someone who needed to undergo an involuntary mental health assessment.

“For approximately three years, we were promised a locked facility with over 16 beds for stabilization. The result was 14 recliners available for no more than (23) hours,” the letter says.

The crisis receiving center could not be used for stabilization, the letter says, which would be needed to treat those suffering from behavioral health issues.

“Further, the ribbon cutting was over a year ago and it is clear the physical space was not utilized and is not able to relieve the pressure on law enforcement and EMS,” the letter says.

RI International will end its services to the county on May 22. County partners want to help put in place a provider prior to that point, saying “ensuring that the crisis services are fully linked to the Behavioral Health Taskforce recommendations and meet the level of service needed is essential.”

“Our goal is to help you have replacement services identified and in place prior to that date, but with stakeholder input this time,” the letter says.

In a letter to the Montgomery County ADAMHS board, Jones-Kelley acknowledged the letter from county leaders, saying she found it disappointing.

“It is disappointing that some in a position of leadership in Montgomery County are choosing to communicate with me via a letter released into the community, as opposed to calling me directly,” Jones-Kelley said to the board.

Montgomery County ADAMHS has been working to find a new provider since RI International’s decision to leave, she said.

“We appreciate Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman’s comment printed in the Dayton Daily News stating, ‘…the resolution of this issue primarily rests with ADAMHS leadership…' We fully agree with that statement and that is what we will remain focused on doing,” Jones-Kelley said.