County Legislature considers compliance officer for mental health department

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The Cortland County Mental Health Department could soon hire a compliance officer to oversee billing and bring the department up to standard with the state’s Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

The County Mental Health Department (MHD) manages around $2.25 million in Medicaid and managed care revenue, which based on Medicaid Inspector General regulations requires the department to have a compliance and privacy officer on staff, according to a document prepared for legislators by the department. 

The County Legislature summoned a special meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee Thursday to vote to advance the measure to the Legislature meeting next Thursday. 

The recommendation passed unanimously.

“We wouldn’t recommend this unless we really had to,” said Sharon MacDougall, the county mental health department director of community services. “Our billing puts our department at a really unique risk and liability.”

MacDougall said the office of the Medicaid Inspector General could audit the department for their lack of a compliance officer.

The position would have a salary range of $68,178-$91,464 and would be in charge of ensuring that laws and regulations are being followed. 

“That high level of monthly, daily and weekly audits by a compliance privacy officer would do an internal double check,” MacDougall said. “That's what this position provides.”

MacDougall added that the position brings in a unique compliance culture.

“I think we found in the last year that we’ve developed that compliance culture, which means that you have trust in your staff to report things,” MacDougall said. “Not report things to get people in trouble, but to make things as best as possible when it comes to client care and following rules and regulations.”

The position would also help free up other staffers currently taking up on some compliance duties.

“Right now I have a deputy who’s probably putting 70-75% of their time into this,” MacDougall added. “I need her skillset to help with acute mental health needs across the county. I need that capacity. She’s an expert in that area.”