News Article Details

Cleburne hospital board agrees to withhold allocation to mental health care provider

The Anniston Star - 10/16/2018

Oct. 16--HEFLIN -- Members of the Cleburne County Hospital Board agreed to not send their annual check to Highland Health Systems in light of the nonprofit's announcement to scale back mental health services at its Heflin clinic.

The board discussed the anticipated consequences of the cutback during a lengthy work session Monday night.

Last month the board voted unanimously to send the check for $18,000 to Highland Health, but at the time the vote was taken no one knew of the cutbacks.

Board members said Monday they want representatives from the nonprofit -- which offers services for the mentally ill in Cleburne County -- to come to a board meeting to explain the cutbacks.

"Tell them if they don't come they're not getting the check," said board member Dan Hopkins, who like other members felt they'd been left in the dark by the nonprofit's refusal visit the board meetings.

"We've asked them three times," said board member Sandy Weston.

"We even asked the for a budget and they won't give us a budget," Weston said.

An attempt by The Anniston Star to reach a Highland representative during business hours was unsuccessful Monday.

Board member Nikki Smallwood agreed with the other board members' concerns.

"I guarantee you, if we as a board have a concern, you have requested funds -- taxpayer dollars from Cleburne County -- and now, we are concerned over the level of service that you are going to provide our citizens, we need more explanation.

"They drew this line in the sand," Smallwood said, referring to Highland Health.

Transportation for adult clients will no longer be provided by Highland Health, according to Cleburne County EMS director Tracy Lambert.

Currently vans pick up patients and take them to the Heflin clinic for day treatment but after Nov. 1 that service will end. Patients can still be seen at the Jacksonville facility but for most that's an impractical distance, and some don't have driver's licenses anyway, according to Smallwood.

Highland Health will still operate a group home in Fruithurst for developmentally delayed adults and a therapist will still be going to Cleburne County schools to see children, according to a letter sent by CEO Mickey Turner earlier this month.

According to board attorney Patrick Casey, the therapist, Beverly Casey, will visit Cleburne County schools four days a week and then staff the Heflin clinic by herself on Thursdays.

Board member Beverly Owens -- who also works for Highland Health in Anniston -- was worried about the adults who will be "falling in the cracks" next month when the cutbacks begin.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the future," Owens said.

"You can look at our county and see the people that have serious problems and so, I just don't know," Owens said.

"My feeling is I don't think we should send them the check until all this is cleared up," Owens said.

Board chairman Sherry Brown told the board that she will send an email to Turner asking for an explanation.

"We're holding off on the check until further notice," Brown said.

Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.

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(c)2018 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.)

Visit The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.) at www.annistonstar.com

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