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McLean County could start billing for mental health treatments and outsource triage center operations

The McLean County Health Department reported three more COVID-related deaths on Friday.
Eric Stock
McLean County started to provide a range of mental health services several years ago with sales tax money from Bloomington and Normal.

McLean County's walk-in crisis facility could soon be under new management and bring in additional revenue for the county.

The McLean County Board will consider a contract on Thursday with the McLean County Center for Human Services (CHS) to run the triage center in Bloomington, starting in November. The county has been operating the facility since it opened in March 2020.

McLean County's director of behavioral health coordination, Kevin McCall, said the change will enable the county to bill for Medicaid reimbursements.

“Currently, triage is still not billing for services and I know that’s been an issue for many community members for a little while now,” McCall said. “(They wonder) why are we not bringing in any funds."

Kevin McCall
Eric Stock
Kevin McCall

McCall said the county has started to put in an electronic medical records system to begin to bill for itsFUSE (Frequent User Systems Engagement) program.That helps people with mental health problems and those who are frequently in jail, in emergency rooms or are homeless.

The county hopes to begin billing in November, he said, but would not turn any client away because they could not pay out of pocket. McCall said the county will seek Medicaid reimbursements in those cases.

Under the proposal, the county would pay CHS $219,500 for 2022 to staff the triage center, starting Nov. 1. CHS would receive up to $717,000 next year, pending county budget approval.

The county's mental health services are paid for through a portion of sales tax that Bloomington and Normal collect.

McCall said the triage center has seen a big increase in demand. The facility saw 279 clients in May, June and July — that’s close to its caseload for all of last year.

He said the move to outsource triage center operations is part of a shift that's included in the mental health action plan the county updated this year.

“We want to ... bring people to the table and share information and data so that we can make more informed decisions and potentially get away from this concept that we want to do service delivery,” McCall said.

New leader

McCall previously managed the triage center before he was tabbed to oversee the county’s behavioral health programs. He succeeded Vanessa Granger-Belcher, who resigned in July due to a family relocation.

McCall, who has worked in McLean County’s behavioral health programs since 2019, said he is proud of what those programs have accomplished in providing mental health care, but added it will take more collaboration between social services agencies to have a greater impact.

“We are very aware there is a huge need for further growth of behavioral health and mental health services in this community, and it is our strong desire to continue to break down those silos that exist in our community and so many others,” he said.

Behavioral health forum

McLean County will host a community forum that aims to raise awareness and decrease stigma related to mental health. The day-long community behavioral health forum is scheduled for Oct. 4 at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Uptown Normal.

McCall said the fifth annual event is free to all McLean County residents and can benefit everyone.

“We intend to attract a lot of the professionals that are in social services, or are in mental health or health in general and they can come and talk with other professionals about other things they are actively engaged in on a regular basis,” McCall said. “We would like to see more participation from the community.”

The forum will include breakout sessions on a range of mental health topics, including adult and youth behavioral health, substance abuse and resilience.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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