Originally created 05/23/01

Mental health center faces $3 million cut



The board that oversees the Community Mental Health Center learned Tuesday night that about $3 million will have to be cut from the center's budget for next year.

Mike Brockman, the center's chief operating officer, told the Community Service Board that he is not sure the budget can be cut but that cutting staff salaries is an option.

Mr. Brockman said he is meeting with Gov. Roy Barnes today to discuss problems the center will face if the $18.4 million has to be reduced.

Mr. Brockman also discussed a program that would provide more outpatient mental health services in the community and possibly make up some of the money loss by attracting more Medicaid patients.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, Jack Usry announced that Jim Points had resigned as the board's chairman. As vice chairman, Mr. Usry has assumed the chairman's role. Mr. Points resigned to take a position at the center as administrative manager.

Mr. Points, before the meeting, said his new duties include on-site logistical management, transportation and risk management.

"This is something that we're talked about for a long time that's finally happened," Mr. Points said.

The board also decided to change the title of a currently vacant position from medical director to clinical director. The medical director is traditionally a physician who handles administrative duties for the center in addition to seeing patients. The clinical director will handle only administrative duties.

The position has been advertised, and two board members were appointed to help in the interviewing process.

After it conducted regular business, the board retired to a closed session to discuss legal proceedings with its attorney, Paul David.

Mr. Usry said Mr. David updated the group on the status of a libel lawsuit that the board has filed against the Mental Health Association of Greater Augusta Inc. and its executive director, Phylis Holliday.

Mr. Usry said he expects a resolution to the lawsuit in the next few weeks but would not comment about what that might be. No action was taken in the closed session, Mr. Usry said.

The lawsuit alleges Ms. Holliday signed a letter bringing forth myriad allegations against the center concerning poor services, audits and hiring practices. The letter claims former state Rep. Robin Williams unfairly influenced the hiring of family and friends at the center.

Center officials and Mr. Williams, who now is a consultant for the board, have denied these statements.

The defendants sent a letter to the board's attorney requesting it voluntarily drop the lawsuit because the board is a state agency and can't file a libel lawsuit in Georgia. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on this information, which will be heard in court June 20, said Gerald Woods, an attorney for the defendants.

Reach Teresa Wood at (706) 724-0851.