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Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center implements salary cuts

Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center is carrying out wage reductions affecting all of its approximately 65 employees. The reductions were to take effect Saturday, Aug. 1.

The center's board of directors concluded that a sizeable cost reduction was necessary and it could not be achieved without cutting salaries, according to a news release from the UMMHC.

Upper-tier salaries will be reduced by 10 percent and the remainder will see a 5 percent decrease, UMMHC reported.

A wide range of other reductions in costs will also be implemented immediately. The center has historically struggled as a community-based mental health center due to its mission to serve despite consumer ability to pay, the news release stated. A majority of the services are reimbursed by publicly funded health care plans. The reimbursement rates have been far from keeping pace with growing costs over the last two decades.

"It is a decision we would like to avoid because our team is exceptionally dedicated to the services and to their communities, said Lenore Barsness, UMMHC executive director. "We are very proud of the excellence they have demonstrated.

"A stressed economy, coupled with the fact that behavioral health services have traditionally been under-funded, has contributed a great deal to the current financial constraints," Barsness said. "This is a decision to protect the sustainability of the organization. Our employees have proven to be resilient during hardships and are very astute about what it takes to maintain the services."

The center had already been preparing to transition to a new business and service model that is expected to make the most out of limited resources. By changing the way it conducts business, UMMHC plans to build on its capacity to provide more services and make better use of its staff resources.

UMMHC has survived decades of challenges and remains unwavering in its mission to provide community based behavioral health services, Barsness said.