Supervisors Meet With Seasons Director
After hearing of the struggles to bring Seasons Center for Mental Health into a financially healthy situation, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors met the director of the organization in person during its weekly meeting on June 14. Kim Scorza, Director of Seasons, met with the board to explain what had happened and was happening with the mental health service provider.
“I wanted to personally come here before you and thank the board for its support of Seasons during this transition,” Scorza began. “Basically, what we had to do was reconfigure the business model of the organization over these past months. We didn’t have a plan in place to be able to turn a profit with the organization.”
After coming on board as the director a little over a year ago, Scorza explained what she did to start making the necessary changes. “We went through each department of Seasons and set expectations, and we’re now holding all the departments to productivity standards, something that wasn’t happening before.”
As an example of productivity expectations, Scorza noted that the therapists now must schedule seven hours of client contact during an eight-hour day, and be able to produce 100 billable hours of client service per month.
“Another thing we did was to cut $300,000 from our budget last November,” Scorza noted. “That came from freezing training, retirement pay, mileage and other costs. By doing that, we have been able to show a profit in the past five months, so we are going the way we need to go.”
Scorza paused a moment. “But without the support of counties, like Palo Alto, I don’t know where Seasons would have gone.”
Citing the fact that there will be changes in the mental health providers’ operations due to health care reform, Scorza noted that Seasons will continue to hold all departments to productivity standards and will work to keep expenses down, as well as work at developing strategic partnerships with other providers.
“I’ve been talking with Tom Lee here at the Palo Alto County Hospital and he is very interested in developing a partnership with Seasons,” Scorza said. “These are the kind of strategic partnerships that we are going to need to develop in the future to keep Seasons viable and productive.”
Supervisor Ron Graettinger questioned how many employees Seasons laid off when it embarked on its budget cuts in November of 2010.
“We laid off 17 people,” Scorza said, “but our biggest unemployment expense was from the 33 people who had worked at Oak Haven at Spirit Lake. But, many of those folks have gotten new jobs, but we’re still incurring about $10,000 a month in unemployment expense.” County Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg asked Scorza what the cash infusion fund payments made by Palo Alto and several other counties was being used for. Scorza replied that the last unemployment payment had come from the infusion funds, along with retirement and termination payments required by federal law.
“It really hit us hard when the federal government kept extending unemployment benefits,” Scorza added.
Supervisor Ed Noonan asked about an operating loan taken out several years earlier by the organization and its status. “We pay $6,000 per month on the principal and interest and that note should be paid off in three to four years,” Scorza replied.
“Well, it sounds like you’re doing what was needed, to run the place like a business.” observed Graettinger.
“Is there a plan in place to repay the counties for the infusion money?” Noonan asked.
“We need to go a year and get some money built up to see how things go,” Scorza said. “But be assured, I don’t want to owe people money.”
As the conversation concluded, Scorza noted, “Some of the things I do don’t make me the most popular person, but I was hired to do what was best for Seasons.”
“Well, we think you’re doing it well,” Supervisor Jerry Hofstad said, with Board Chair Keith Wirtz echoing the statement.