This past spring, a new $16 million system implemented by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) turned out to be so flawed that patient mental health bills weren’t submitted to the state for six months in 2008. This so-called "glitch" led to a loss of more ...
This past spring, a new $16 million system implemented by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) turned out to be so flawed that patient mental health bills weren’t submitted to the state for six months in 2008. This so-called "glitch" led to a loss of more than $1million in state funding and almost resulted in the closure down four clinics on the city's South Side. Back in July we took Daley administration officials at their word when they said that the problems were fixed.
During the ongoing city budget hearings yesterday, it was revealed that the system is still not working properly. Outgoing CDPH chief Terry Mason told aldermen that fixing the $16 million Cerner system -- which was supposed to represent an upgrade -- remains "an active process."
To his credit, Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd Ward) pressed him on the matter: "You're saying that after 18 months you're unable to work out technical glitches that prevent us from billing the state?" "That is correct," Mason responded.
Budget Committee Chair Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward) assured Munoz that the Cerner system would be fixed within "months."
"Months?" Munoz asked. Austin replied that she couldn't offer a "specific date."
Indeed the Cerner set-up is so riddled with problems that staffers are now using a different technology (Custom Information Systems) to log daily billing forms, according to an internal CDPH memo cited by the Tribune and obtained by Progress Illinois:
Even before the city dropped the ball on the billing system, mental health services were in short supply. This is largely do to the Daley administration's gradual reduction of funding for the dozen mental health clinics that still exist throughout the city. We dug through some budget documents and found that in 2006, the city committed (PDF) $6.6 million in general revenue to staff the clinics. This year, the recommendation (PDF) has fallen to a mere $3.5 million.
Meanwhile, because of boneheaded billing problems, state reimbursements for the clinics is projected to fall in FY2011 to $4.2 million from $7.2 million this year, according to budget documents.That's $3 million out the window because of the faulty system.
The repercussions are already being felt. Mason testified that clinic staff is down to 108 from 216 and 4,000 patients have been dropped from the clinics' rolls this year. "What happens to people who need human services?" Munoz asked Mason at the hearing. "Who tracks that?"
The question was met with silence.