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Luzerne, Wyoming Mental Health agency plans change in case managers

Standard-Speaker - 10/5/2022

Oct. 5—Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health Services plans to use private case managers instead of its own employees, starting next year, according to a proposal.

In the change, the counties' agency would line up one or more private firms to work as case managers.

Case managers work with people who receive services for intellectual disabilities, autism or other conditions. They help individuals find services that help the individuals meet goals such as finding employment, pursuing hobbies or receiving training that meet their budget.

On Tuesday, case managers received news of the proposal, as did some agencies like the ReDCo group that teaches people daily living skills, leads them on outings and provides other services in Hazleton.

"It's all going to be new for us," Lisa Fisher, a program specialist at ReDCo, said.

Individuals and their families served by the case managers expect to receive letters next week.

This summer, Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health and Developmental Services began a similar change on July 1.

Tina Clymer, the administrator there, expected the switch would take until the end of the year, but now she expects to wrap up by the end of this month.

Clymer said she received advice from counties such as Washington and Lehigh that previously made the switch, and she in turn has advised her counterpart at Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health.

After sending letters to firms that had qualified with the state to provide case management, Clymer said her agency entered into agreements with six firms.

Of the case managers who previously worked with her counties agency, 14 joined one of the new providers, four took other jobs within the counties' agency and three are deciding their next move.

Clymer said two factors led her agency to make the switch for Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties.

Up to 30% of the case workers' jobs had been vacant even before the pandemic, when the situation worsened.

"That meant other case managers were overloaded," said Clymer, adding the level of overwork wasn't fair to employees of families.

Also, the county office monitored the case workers to ensure that they performed to standards of quality and timeliness to meet regulations.

"We're overseeing the same people we share an office with so there's a little conflict with that," Clymer said.

Clymer said case management is billable through Medicaid, but economics weren't a major factor in the decision.

"In most years we billed enough to cover. This past year, there was a slight deficit, but it wasn't a big concern," she said.

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