Allegheny County audit cites need for better controls on mental health crisis service

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An audit released by the Allegheny County Controller’s office Wednesday contains recommendations about mental health services that are consistent with “plans and efforts already underway or in place” at the county Department of Human Services, according to a spokeswoman.

Controller Chelsa Wagner recommended “tighter controls” for the contracted work between the county’s Department of Human Services and the re:solve Crisis Network program run by Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. The controller’s audit looked at the $14 million contract between the county and Western Psych, of which $4.4 million goes toward re:solve, between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013.

“While conducting our audit, we found internal deficiencies that could potentially result in people being left untreated,” Ms. Wagner said.

Citing gaps in areas such as paperwork and call logs, the audit’s recommendations include strengthening internal controls surrounding documentation of the involuntary commitment, or “302” process and developing written procedures about how and when employees should dispose of illegal contraband.

The audit also said that re:solve had overbilled DHS $15,604, though it has since been repaid.

In a letter attached to the audit, Patricia Valentine, the executive deputy director for integrated program services for the department, said the department is implementing a new automated system for involuntary commitment processing that will add additional controls.

That new system allows the 302 petition, a legal document often filled out by hand, to be filled out in the department's electronic system, said Kimberly Welsh, the emergency and community integration services manager for DHS. The department is midway through its rollout of the project and should have it completed by November.

In terms of contraband disposal, staffers have been retrained on filling out and signing proper forms, said Gloria Kreps, a UPMC spokeswoman. As for the rectified overcharge, she said Western Psych annually delivers services that exceed the county’s reimbursement, including $300,000 worth of crisis services in 2013.

The error in the billing system programming was corrected more than a year ago, she said, and has been accounted for in Western Psych’s overall deficit.

The controller’s office launched its audit after a request was made by District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. His request was spurred by the March 8, 2012, shooting at Western Psych, when gunman John Shick shot and wounded five employees there and killed therapist Michael Schaab.

Shick, who was fatally shot by police at the scene, had twice been visited by mobile crisis units from re:solve, but he refused to comply with their attempts to assess him.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707. First Published August 14, 2014 12:00 AM

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