Mental Health Clinics Pick Their Own New, Private Employers

OAKLAND COUNTY—Employees at Oakland County's six public mental health agencies may be reporting to new bosses soon. The mental health professionals who work at six Oakland County Mental Health Authority clinics could be working for Easter Seals and/or the Macomb Oakland Regional Center (MORC) by the end of the year if negotiations for privatization go as expected.

In a unique twist, administrators of the clinics selected the two non-profit organizations that will eventually be their employers. An employee privatization group organized by Mary Griffiths, chief of Collaborative Solutions, a consulting firm, recruited and interviewed representatives of several organizations before selecting Easter Seals and MORC. Employees were told of the intent to privatize nine months ago, and selected the two organizations after learning that both were interested in incorporating the clinics into their operations.

The privatization was recommended by the state because of changes in Medicaid billing. Under the privatization plan, the Mental Health Authority will become a community maintenance organization much like an HMO.

In the coming months, each clinic and Easter Seals and MORC will organize its own negotiating team and begin discussions on how the privatization will proceed. Spokesmen for the Oakland County Mental Health Authority say they anticipate a smooth transition and that clients will not notice any difference when they come in for services.