MANATEE -- The chief of Manatee Glens Hospital Tuesday sought an additional $545,000 in county funds over this year's appropriation, saying the prescription drug epidemic and the economic downturn have fueled huge increases in the number of those who need help.
"In the last three years, uninsured families seeking care at Manatee Glens for adult detox has increased 87 percent, for adult crisis inpatient 18 percent, and for child crisis inpatient, 75 percent," Mary Ruiz, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton specialty hospital, which treats those needing mental health and addiction treatment, wrote in a letter to Manatee County Commission Chairman John Chappie.
Without the increased allocation, Ruiz predicted she would have to cut services to other hospitals who transfer hundreds of mentally ill clients from local emergency rooms to Manatee Glens, she said during a budget workshop meeting.
"We ask that increased funding of $545,000 for mental health and addictions care at Manatee Glens Hospital be addressed at this time in order for Manatee Glens to continue to accept more than 400 transfers a year from all other local hospitals of uninsured patients requiring mental health and addictions treatment," her letter said.
Manatee Glens' total budgeted amount from the county for this year was $2,409,323, according to the county financial management department.
However, the hospital has many sources of funding, including state and federal ones, in addition to the what it receives each year from the county, Ruiz said.
The prospect of losing Manatee Glens' help disturbed two local hospital chiefs, who told commissioners they would struggle without it.
Kevin DiLallo, chief executive officer of Manatee Healthcare System Group and vice president of UHS of Delaware, Inc., which operates Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, described the former hospital as "the refuge for the community." And while his staff figures out how to handle everybody, over the long term he will be looking for money because the write-offs cannot be sustained.
Patients suffering from behavioral health diagnoses, such as chronic diabetes and chronic emphysema, keep reappearing in the Manatee Memorial Hospital emergency room because no one is providing them with routine care, he said.
"The biggest bang for the buck is not the 60,000 people that show up, it's the top 50, who cost me probably $3 million or $4 million," he said.
Daniel Friedrich, chief executive officer at Blake Medical Center, was equally adamant about being able to continue sending mentally ill people for care to Manatee Glens, saying, "We do not have the capability to deal with these patients."
"Trying to provide mental health services is not our expertise, it's a vital service to our community," he said.
Also seeking scarce money Tuesday for healthcare services for the poor was John McKay, a board member of the Community Coalition on Homelessness, a nonprofit that operates the Bill Galvano One Stop Center, at 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton.
He sought about $150,000, perhaps partly supplied by the City of Bradenton, saying it would be used to transform part of the center into patient exam rooms, where medical residents, pharmacists and dentists will be taking care of the needy for free.
The idea is to encourage the uninsured to seek primary medical care at the center's clinic, rather than using the expensive services of local hospital emergency rooms, officials said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.