$21M in revenue cuts, layoffs expected by Ala. Dept. of Public Health


By Lydia Nusbaum / WSFA

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – The Alabama Department of Public Health is expecting cuts and possible layoffs once a new program by the Alabama Medicaid Agency begins later this year. That according to ADPH Chief of Staff Michele Jones.

ADPH expects to lose more than $21 million in revenue because of Medicaid’s “Alabama Coordinated Health Network” initiative, but Alabama Medicaid recipients will not lose coverage at any time because of the transition.

As a result of Medicaid’s new program, ADPH’s social work division will be dissolved. Jones said there are about 160 case managers in that division around the state and it’s unknown how many people could be laid off.

Social workers help get people access to care. They make sure people get to their appointments and take medications, as well as work on mental health issues.

“Typically, Medicaid would fund us [ADPH] to provide those services,” said Carolyn Bern, ADPH’s Governmental Affairs and Community Relations coordinator.

Bern said Medicaid will now work with other networks to handle those services, which means the ADPH social work division will be cut out.

Alabama Medicaid Agency’s new program will provide a single-care coordination delivery system linking patients, providers and resources together within seven newly-defined regions across the state.

State Medicaid Communications Director Melanie Cleveland said under the new program, current health services will be contracted out to each network across those seven regions.

Cleveland added that ADPH has the ability to contract with the networks to provide services, but Jones confirmed Thursday that ADPH has only reached a contractual agreement with one of them.

“I greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to mitigate the effects of our new budget constraints,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris in an email sent to all state employees.

See a copy of the email below:

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris sent an email to ADPH employees about budget challenges.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris sent an email to ADPH employees about budget challenges.

Jones said the department is contacting other Alabama agencies to see if they have open positions for affected ADPH case workers. They want layoffs to be the last resort.

Even with few details, Jones agreed that other areas in the department besides case managers would “absolutely” be impacted by the loss in revenue.

“We’re removing a revenue stream from the Department of Public Health that is significant,” Jones stated. “Twenty-one million dollars is significant.”

Jones said it’s not clear at this point what the other impacts in the department will look like. The department is evaluating and making plans for all aspects of the department on state, district and county levels.

Jones said they should have several plans in the next couple of weeks detailing what changes will be made within the department.

“Uncertainty and change can be difficult, but please know that I am profoundly grateful for the dedication and spirit of service possessed by you all,” Harris said in the email.

Care coordination services will be suspended under the current program on Oct. 1 and ACHNs will start care coordination a month later on Nov. 1. That gives staff time to train and for the transition of information.