Cottonwood center to start fiscal year with bigger budget

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Once threatened with closure, the Cottonwood Children's Residential Treatment Center in Cape Girardeau will start the new fiscal year on July 1 with a larger budget than the current year's and a sigh of relief from staff who only months ago faced the prospect of losing their jobs this summer.

"Not only did we not close, but we got an increase," said director Martha Cassell. "That is a very good deal."

The $2.38 million budget for fiscal 2005 is almost $117,000 higher than the center's current budget, she said. Federal Medicaid dollars are expected to pay over $823,000 of the center's budget, a cost-savings move for the state.

Missouri Department of Mental Health officials are still working out the billing procedures needed to tap into the Medicaid money, Cassell said.

At one point, House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, succeeded in placing nearly $3.2 million for Cottonwood into the proposed state spending plan as it was being crafted in the Missouri Legislature.

That figure was almost $1 million more than the final budget that was inked.

Crowell said Monday that he only proposed that much money for Cottonwood in case the treatment center for children with behavioral and emotional problems had to hire more doctors and provide 24-hour medical care to secure funding from Medicaid.

As it turned out, state officials discovered that such an option wasn't needed. "We didn't have to convert it to a hospital atmosphere," Crowell said.

The Cape Girardeau lawmaker said the final budget figure works well for the treatment center. "They don't need any more money," he said.

State spending planGov. Bob Holden in January recommended a state spending plan that would have closed the treatment center because, he said, the state didn't have the money to keep it open. But he later embraced a new funding plan.

The funding worked out by Crowell, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder and Holden saved 85 jobs at the treatment center and assured that children will continue to get mental health treatment at the 32-bed facility at 1025 N. Sprigg.

Parents of children served by the center lobbied loudly to keep the center open. When news of the funding plan surfaced publicly in March, parents were thrilled.

"It means the world to me," Tami Binkard said at the time. She moved to Cape Girardeau so her 15-year-old autistic son could receive treatment at Cottonwood.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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