Northern Pines Mental Health Center sought financial help from Crow Wing County Tuesday.
Northern Pines is a nonprofit organization created in 1964 as a community mental health center serving Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. When it was founded the organization was primarily funded by county grants. Now most funding comes from service contracts and fees for service. The county serves as a co-owner of the organization. Northern Pines has offices in Little Falls, Brainerd, Long Prairie and Staples.
In 2000, the county began to change the way it funded Northern Pines, moving from a block grant to a pay for service system. The relationship became straight fee for service this year. The county budgeted $75,000 for services in 2004 and actually paid $36,000. Not as many people are being served as expected. By the end of the year Northern Pines expects it will owe the county a refund of $6,443.33 from the $36,000 total.
Mark Bublitz, Northern Pines executive director, asked the county to forgive the repayment and release the remainder of the contract amount -- the $39,000 difference between the $36,000 and $75,000. Susan Beck, county human services director, admitted to being torn between support for the service and concern for budget constraints.
"Northern Pines is a worthwhile organization," Bublitz said, noting Northern Pines may be facing a $200,000 deficit. "The agency cannot continue to operate at these kinds of losses."
The county agreed to forgive the $6,443.33 and to pay $39,000 as a downpayment for services rendered in 2006.
Bublitz asked the county to reconsider the fee for service funding concept. As for Northern Pines, Bublitz said the staff may be too large and more efforts may be needed to market programs. Bublitz spoke in defense of mental health care and service to the poor and uninsured. He said four of 10 leading causes of disability are mental disorders.
"That affects everything in our economy," he said.
Northern Pines reported it provides more than 30,000 hours of service to people regardless of ability to pay. Bublitz said the people are not a skid row stereotype but are the family and friends who get up and go to work every day. "Without care that can become more difficult."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.