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State sets "onsite review" of Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority

Dec 21, 2017

Lansing has put Michigan’s biggest mental health agency on notice that its state certification may be in jeopardy.

That agency is the Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority. This year, it doled out over $700 million to community mental health service providers serving about 80,000 people.

The warning came in a December 18th letter from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to DWMHA leaders, after Michigan Radio reported on concerns about how the Authority conducts business.

That letter notes “significant concerns” about the Authority’s compliance with state certification standards and “other contractual requirements.”

Those concerns include problems hiring a new permanent CEO; “allegations of potential conflicts of interest” among board members; and the “handling of improper payments and the recoupment process” with two subcontractors found to have over billed the Authority.

The letter ends with MDHHS saying it plans an onsite “certification review” at DWMHA in January 2018.

The letter did not come up at a DWMHA board meeting Wednesday. The board chair, Dr. Herbert Smitherman, declined to speak with Michigan Radio after the meeting.

Wayne County Executive issued this statement in response to the state's action:

This provides the mental health authority a reset moment. There have clearly been some issues, but the state review should help the board address any problems or policies that would prevent new leadership from continuing the authority’s critical work of delivering desperately needed services in the most efficient manner possible.” 

The Authority’s CEO search committee is scheduled to meet Thursday. That search is resuming for a third time after the board’s top two picks pulled out—the first after failed contract negotiations, the second after Wayne County Executive Warren Evans expressed repeated concerns about her ability to lead the agency because of a conflict of interest.

Wayne County and the city of Detroit each has six appointments to the DWMHA board. The Authority formed in 2012, spinning off from the former Detroit Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency.

Updated:  12/21/17 This story was updated to include a statement from Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.