August 21, 2011 by Sue Madison
By Senator Sue Madison (D) District 7
Athletic Fees to Increase
The State Hospital has agreed to a far-reaching improvement plan that will keep federal funding of the facility intact for the next year.
The hospital is a psychiatric facility in Little Rock with 236 beds for people with mental illnesses so severe that they need to be placed in an institution. It is operated by the state Department of Human Services, which also operates 13 community mental health centers across the state for thousands of Arkansans who require psychiatric care.
Almost a third of the annual funding of the State Hospital comes from the federal government, which threatened to shut off the flow of revenue unless the facility made improvements in care. The agreement calls for the hospital to pay for third-party consultants to review policies and practices, including how prescription drugs are dispensed to patients and how staff are trained.
In a separate development, an investigation cleared the State Hospital of complaints that it had billed the federal government for services that were not medically necessary. The complaint was filed by an advocacy group that looks out for the interests of patients. A spokesman for the group said that some patients did not have the type of mental illness that made it necessary for them to be in the State Hospital.
Medicaid, a government health care program, was paying for their treatment. An investigator for a Medicaid unit dismissed the complaints. A finding against the hospital would have further jeopardized its federal funding.
The State Hospital’s operating budget last fiscal year was about $45 million, of which $13 million came from federal funding. The state provided the rest.
Any potential loss of federal funding is a serious matter for the state Human Services Department. It is very hard to find and pay for treatment of the patients at the State Hospital because of the severity of their medical conditions.
Earlier this year, after federal monitors found problems in how patients were cared for, the state dismissed the Hospital’s chief administrator.
In the coming school year eight state-supported universities in Arkansas will raise fees that students must pay to support athletic programs, according to a report by the state Higher Education Department.
Athletic fees range from $11.50 per credit hour at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia to $17 a credit hour at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville does not charge mandatory student fees for athletics. The Razorbacks receive millions in ticket sales, licensing of products and television contracts.
The Razorback athletic program, with a total budget of $69 million, is by far the largest in the state. Arkansas State University at Jonesboro ranks second with an athletic budget of $12 million.
UCA is third with a budget of almost $9 million for athletics and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is fourth with an athletic budget of $6.7 million. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff follows right behind with annual spending on athletics of $6.2 million.
Arkansas Tech at Russellville spends almost $4 million a year on athletics, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Henderson State each spend about $3.4 million, the University of Arkansas at Monticello $2.9 million and the University of Southern Arkansas at Magnolia $2.5 million.
If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, please call me at 479-442-2997.