MOUNT CARMEL — Residents may have more access to mental health services locally in the near future, Wabash General Hospital President and CEO Jay Purvis shared with the board of directors Monday.

"As you all know, we have had an issue, including in our community needs assessment and our own strategic planning sessions, and identified a need to find a way to provide better mental health services in this community," he said.

Purvis continued to say in the span of a month, WGH has met with the Wabash County Health Department and Richland Memorial Hospital in hopes to begin a joint venture to acquire a psychiatrist that would serve both communities.

"We're working with (Richland) and the health department to see is there some way to get a cohesive program in place by doing some cost sharing that would make sense. Individually, none of us I think is going be successful at it — we've all tried," he said.

More information will be available as the hospitals and health department continue their discussions.

In his management report, Purvis also braced the board for the news of potential problems due to both state and federal politics.

"You all know they continue to have a stalemate in the state of Illinois in getting a budget passed," he said. "(Illinois) is proposing to borrow an additional $7 billion to pay down 50 percent of the outstanding bills, which increases the state debt by an additional $7 billion. So that becomes an issue that we struggle with."

Purvis said he would be attending a meeting Tuesday in Springfield and said there would be "no mercy" when it comes to budget matters.

"They are looking to reduce significantly what they pay for workman's comp payments to decrease their debt and Medicaid," he said. "That's compounded by the fact that (Tuesday) the first edition of the federal budget will be released — in it a proposal to reduce Medicaid funding by $880 billion — that's a chunk — and to reduce by billions of dollars subsidies that underwrite health insurance for a lot of people. This is something that could happen in the next day or two is an economic analysis, the impact of all this — how many various people will be set aside, unable to afford insurance, and how many more various people are going to basically be without access to services."

Purvis urged the board to realize the state and federal governments will not put any more money into healthcare services, so the hospital needs to continue to find new revenue sources to continue to do well financially.

"When you see how many lobbyist there are and how many billions of dollars is spent to influence that legislation, it kind of tells you we're sledding uphill," he said.

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