Mahoning County Mental Health Board director criticized Turning Point leadership.

By William K. Alcorn


The Mahoning County Mental Health Board says it will not bail out Turning Point Counseling Services, which the board said is in “financial crisis.”

Turning Point’s spending exceeded revenue by $245,861 in the first six months of fiscal year 2013, which began July 1, 2012, and $508,682 over the five years before that.

Turning Point is a nonprofit corporation that provides behavioral health care and substance-abuse services for adults.

For fiscal year 2013, the mental health board allocated about $2.4 million to Turning Point.

The board unanimously adopted a resolution late last week directing its staff to develop a contingency plan, which does not include a “cash infusion,” to ensure there is no disruption of services to Turning Point clients should the agency fail to right its finances.

Turning Point needs better productivity by generating more clients per employee, said Ronald Marian, health board executive director.

“We need Joe [Joseph Sylvester, Turning Point executive director] to provide some leadership. The Turning Point board has a [recovery] plan I like, but there has to be leadership,” Marian said.

The financial problem is mostly related to revenue and productivity, Brandy Kelly-Gilea, clinical director at Turning Point, told the mental health board.

Staff members who don’t produce will be disciplined and/or fired, she said.

Sylvester, who met with Turning Point’s board of directors last week, said actions are being taken to increase revenues and reduce costs.

This month, three case managers were laid off, and a full-time compliance administrative position, which will be contracted out on a part-time basis, was eliminated. Also, other positions that were vacated have not been filled, Sylvester said.

Turning Point has two basic funding sources, he said.

The agency at 611 Belmont Ave. was allocated a little more than $2.4 million in local levy money through the mental health board for this fiscal year. The other major revenue source is payments through Medicaid.

Medicaid is the federal entitlement program managed by the state that provides payment for medical services for low-income citizens.

Part of the problem, Sylvester said, is that four years ago the mental health board went to a fee for a service drawdown system in which the agency doesn’t receive an outright grant but is only paid for clients who are seen.

“If the clients don’t make their appointments, we lose money and productivity,” he said.

Sylvester said Turning Point is constantly looking for process or procedure changes aimed at increasing the number of new clients and retaining current clients.

Sylvester said the Turning Point board is “very supportive” of his plan to reverse the financial losses. The board has asked Sylvester to monitor the plan weekly to ensure the initiatives are working. “We do have control of our financial problems,” he said.

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