A local landlord says the county’s Health and Human Services Agency is at least three months behind on room-and-board payments for some of the mental health patients whose welfare the agency is meant to protect.
Three Months Behind (So Far)
Barbara Mathis, who operates three room-and-board homes for at-risk mental health patients transitioning from homelessness and recent in-patient treatment, claims the county owes her about $70,000 for food and shelter provided to residents of her trio of boarding homes. Invoices, she said, began stacking up in January, went unpaid through March, and she expects payment requests for April’s services to also be ignored.
“I keep resubmitting, but it doesn’t do any good,” Mathis said.
She has tried to contact her clients’ caseworkers, and took up the problem with a manager at the agency without results.
“He said just send me the names and the birthdates,” Mathis said. “I said I have done that, hand-carried them to you.”
County Cannot Comment
Mathis operates four boarding houses for at-risk individuals–one for the elderly and infirm, and three for people dealing with acute mental-health issues. Of her clients, 17 people living at the homes serving the mentally-ill have their living expenses funded through the county-operated Full-Service Partnership (FSP) Program. HHSA should be paying Mathis $13,600 a month, she says, but isn’t.
Casie Ennis, division manager for HHSA’s behavioral health services, declined to address Mathis’ situation directly, neither confirming nor denying if Mathis was owed anything or if the county was in arrears.
“I’m not going to comment more on the matter, other than to report on the process,” she said.
Ennis said the FSP program is intended as a source of short-term support for impoverished mentally ill individuals in the county’s care. Payments from the program are processed by the HHSA in two to four weeks, she said.
“Payments are made for only the time that an individual is authorized to receive FSP payments from us,” she said.
County Depends on Room-and-Boards
HHSA relies heavily on the room-and-board homes the program funds to help low-income individuals who are seeking treatment with the county’s help for their mental health problems, Ennis said. Her agency, she said, is particularly grateful to those who operate them.
“In Tulare County, we really appreciate the availability of these facilities,” said Ennis.
The FSP program is part of the county’s long-term plan to address issues of behavioral health and homelessness, she said, adding that it is a fairly flexible funding source.
“FSP is here to stay,” Ennis said. “For each individual, it isn’t always funding or it isn’t always housing.”
At her homes, Mathis says the care also included transportation to treatments.
“They have three meals a day, and gas, water and electricity, and a bed,” she said of her clients. “I was taking some of them to the clinic, but that’s closed because of the COVID.”
Mathis said she’s reliant on prompt payment from the county to continue to provide that care, and to avoid falling behind on her own bills, which is beginning to happen. She’s also spoken with other room-and-board owners, and they also report late payments, she said.
Ennis again declined to comment.
“I really can’t comment beyond that,” she said. “I can’t be sure what her concerns are.”
Fear of Retaliation
Besides the unpaid bills stemming from behavioral health clients who rely on the county for support, Mathis said she’s also gone unpaid for residents at her elder-care home, with unpaid bills for one client going back to June of last year. She says she’s also owed for other clients who have moved on, but whose bills were never paid by the county.
Mathis has operated her room-and-board homes since 2007, but she’s been in a similar arrangement with the county before. At one time, Mathis ran a home for more than 30 individuals on county probation, and had a similar problem with late payments. When she complained, she said, the county retaliated against her.
“The last time I squawked, they pulled all my clients,” she said.