A second view of the DMH budget

Earlier this week, the Department of Mental Health gave information to state lawmakers that indicated a sizable hole in next year’s budget: an increase in mental health expenses from this year’s $41.1 million to next year’s $61.5 million.

Now, DMH says there was a big oopsie in there. Vermont Press Bureau (article paywalled; published in the 12/5 Times Argus):    

Due to a spreadsheet tallying error, the actual expenses projected are $52.7 million for fiscal year 2014, said Mental Health Department Financial Director Heidi Hall during an interview Tuesday.

A better figure, to be sure; but did no one double-check the spreadsheet before giving it to the Legislature?

After the jump: the real budget hole totals $5.3 million, says DMH.

Anyway, that wasn’t the only bit of budget news. DMH also said Tuesday that much of the increased operating cost won’t be borne by the state, but by the federal government. The actual increase “in certain Department of Mental health expenses related to the restructuring of the state’s psychiatric health system” (to quote the VPB’s inarticulate but accurate phrasing): $5.3 million.

Which, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, means the feds will pick up more than half of the increased costs — which total $11.6 million, if my numbers (and the DMH’s revised spreadsheet) are correct.  So why the difference in federal dollars?

…a new psychiatric hospital in Berlin will generate millions more in Medicaid reimbursements that the state had previously lost as a consequence of the old state hospital’s decertification.

Score one for the new hospital. Still, DMH will have to seek a $5.3 budget increase to cover the higher costs of the new system, and that won’t be easy. But it’s a lot better than $20 million.

A reminder that all these figures are for operating expenses, not for construction. And the state’s price tag for construction is still up in the air, thanks to the ongoing dispute with FEMA.  

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