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Rose Hill not closing, but struggling due to state aid cuts

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MASSENA - When Rose Hill opened its doors in 1987, it did so to provide drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to adolescents regardless of their ability to pay.

And while that philosophy has enabled the facility to help hundreds of young adults over the years, it has also made operating in the black a difficult task.

Rose Hill is owned by Can-Am Youth Services and operated by a board of directors. Joseph D. Gray, who serves as the president of that board, said Rose Hill has an operating budget of $2.1 million, while only receiving $234,000 per year in state aid.

Other money, he said, comes from Medicaid or insurance reimbursements, with some families paying for their own care. However, Mr. Gray said those rates are income-based and while collecting some money is better than receiving nothing often times the payments collected from self-pay patients are not nearly enough to cover the facility’s expenses.

“We may have people paying $40 a month for treatment that is very, very expensive,” he said, noting that in the past three years alone Rose Hill has given away $2.7 million in free treatment.

The loss of state aid from previous years has forced the facility to reduce its staff by 7.5 full-time equivalent employees in recent months, Mr. Gray said.

“We have argued for years that New York state should be helping us for these services,” he said. “The question we’ve been asking the state is why should a private, not-for-profit be solely responsible for paying for treatment for kids who can’t afford it?”

Mr. Gray said Rose Hill is one of only four facilities in the state that specialize in rehabilitation services for adolescents.

“Adolescent care is severely underfunded and adult care is fully funded,” Mr. Gray said. “Does that make sense?”

Rose Hill also often encounters difficulties when billing insurance companies.

“There’s a difference between medically necessary and clinically necessary,” he said, explaining it’s not unusual for an insurance company to say the treatment was not medically necessary and not pay the bills associated with it.

Another common practice for insurance companies is to tell Rose Hill that they will only pay for 10 days of treatment.

“Our choice is to treat them for 10 days and then kick them out or treat them until we feel they’re ready to leave,” Mr. Gray said, adding Rose Hill does not kick people out based on the amount of treatment their insurance company will pay for.

While Rose Hill has run at a deficit before, Mr. Gray said that in the past the state would provide additional aid to ensure the facility at least broke even. In 2013, though, that was not the case.

“We ran at a deficit last year, which isn’t unusual, but in 2013 for whatever reason they (the state) said there would be no extra aid available and now we’re struggling to make up the difference.”

The trouble with insurance companies, as well as decreased state aid, are issues that Mr. Gray said have been addressed with Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, as well as Assemblywoman Addie Jenne Russell, but so far, to no avail.

To help cut costs, Mr. Gray said Rose Hill has laid off the equivalent of 7.5 full-time positions through a combination of cuts that included both full and part-time positions.

Another casualty of the tough financial times has been the facility’s internship program.

Mr. Gray said that in the past Rose Hill has offered internships to area colleges students, but with the staffing cuts he said they no longer had the employees available to oversee interns and manage the internship program.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gray said the remaining staff has been very cooperative.

“The staff has been great,” he said. “They have volunteered to work extra hours, and we have administrative workers who had their salaries cut and are still doing the same amount of work.”

Mr. Gray said Rose Hill is supported by The Rose Hill Foundation, which may become more active in the weeks and months ahead.

Donations to the facility are tax-deductible, and Mr. Gray said they can be mailed to: The Rose Hill Foundation; 100 County Route 43; Massena NY 13662.

“We’re struggling right now, but we’re hoping to survive long-term,” Mr. Gray said.

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