Smoky Mountain Center cuts costs with more personal care

Aug. 18, 2014 @ 04:20 PM

In the last two years, Smoky Mountain LME/MCO, a mental health service provider in Western North Carolina, has reduced its cost of services by more than $20 million while increasing its number of providers and the number of patients it treats, agency officials said Friday.

For the past two years, Smoky Mountain has been able to operate under a waiver that allows the organization to bypass certain federal Medicaid requirements.

“You’ve heard the sound bites about Medicaid being out of control and broken, but the part we have our arms around is not,” said Brian Ingraham, Smoky Mountain’s CEO. “We’re managing our part of the Medicaid budget very effectively.”

A major part of those cost savings came from reductions in the use of Psychiatric Residential Treatment Services for youth, which a Smoky Mountain release describes as “a highly restrictive level of care” in treatment facilities, opting instead to use less intensive services closer to a child’s home community.

Dr. Craig Martin, chief medical officer with Smoky Mountain, found that in residential treatment children were being held for one or two years to complete programs that sometimes called for much more treatment than the patient required.

By looking at what type of treatments, facilities and needs existed in each case, Smoky Mountain staff was able to reduce the length of stay for some patients and avoid unnecessary admissions, Martin said.

In the two years Smoky Mountian has been working on these cases, only one youth had to be re-admitted to a facility within 30 days, Ingraham said.