Mental-health agency effective, well-managed
Your Watchdog Reports usually bring to light issues of real concern, but I think you did not meet your regular standards with the June 3 article on the state-backed Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board.
In the article, you described a well-respected, highly successful organization with some 2,200 employees and 30,000 clients. You also quote mental-health experts who say that Bluegrass is doing an exemplary job. A little Internet research reveals that the organization performed near-miracles in rehabilitating Eastern State Hospital and Somerset's Oakwood facility.
You also revealed that Bluegrass uses lobbyists to help achieve some goals, and that the executives are well-compensated. Because the result is an effective, admirable, profitable organization, I do not see the reason for alarm. Nothing unethical was revealed and even critics seem to admire the Bluegrass track record.
You made a strong case for the Bluegrass business model and its capable executive leadership. Maybe we need more state-backed institutions with such a visionary approach to public service.
John E. Campbell
I have helped mental-health clients for the past 13 years: worked for the Kentucky Center for Mental Health Studies, conducted research on jail and mental-health clients and edited the book Mental Health Consumers in the Criminal Justice System.
Regarding your story on the Bluegrass Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, I think Bluegrass's CEO salary needs to be competitive to keep the CEO from going to another mental-health organization in Kentucky or in another state.
I am not as concerned about the specific CEO salary level as I am about how well mental-health clients are being treated.
Bluegrass has been successful with operating Eastern State Hospital and Oakwood in Somerset, which had lost millions in federal funding because of past problems.
Clients of mental-health services are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and I think that they should have the best treatment and help available.
If higher CEO salaries accomplish this, then fine. If lowering salaries makes mental-health organizations less competitive for talented leaders, then mental-health clients could fail.
Daniel W. Phillips III
Chair, Social Sciences Division
Lindsey Wilson College
My observation from eight years of direct service provision at Bluegrass MH-MR Board, Inc. is that the employment experience may be characterized as top-down intimidation or bottom-up protectionism.
Herald-Leader staffer John Cheves' comprehensive scrutiny of the Bluegrass management structure, Byzantine in its complexity, may leave the reader wondering: "If they're so smart, why ain't we rich?"
The "we" being the taxpaying public who are the funders (direct or indirect) of any not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization serving a social need.
If Bluegrass' for-profit, Bluegrass New Directions, run by retired CEO Joe Toy, is valued for its billing and scheduling software, why can't it be directly hired by the state and the Department of Mental Health eliminated? That way, taxpayers would at least see some tangible relief from the corporate innovation model that is Bluegrass, Inc. After all, the state mental-health department doesn't want to run the facilities, anyway.
So, couldn't Bluegrass New Directions — with smaller, incentivised staff — conduct the vital service of the mental health department, such as transferring federal monies into discretionary grants to the service providers across the commonwealth? At least citizens would see decreased state spending, maybe?
Cheves' journalism artfully brush-strokes a portrait of self-aggrandizement where the representatives hang themselves on their own petard, with board chair Scott Gould explaining that the ballooning budget growth in recent years was only because more people on Medicaid were served. (Thus preserving the discretionary funds for the Bluegrass board's discretionary use.)
Only one question goes begging at the article's end: "Who's Toy-ed with now?'
UK's callous layoffs
Layoffs at the University of Kentucky may be needed, but the awful way at least some of them have been handled is a disgrace to UK.
If the Gatton College of Business and Economics teaches its students to act that way when they become executives, then who would want to get their professional education there?
"Do unto others....." is relevant here as elsewhere in life. Much better should be expected of a flagship university.
John V Payne, M.D.
Regarding the "significant" layoffs coming to the University of Kentucky, I found it sad that Robynn Pease, the director of UK's Work Life Office, would state the following: "If people have been paying attention to UK's budget issues, they won't be surprised by layoffs."
I can assure her that many people have been paying very much attention to the ongoing and growing budget crisis. This is, by the way, a problem, not an issue, and a very big problem at that.
It is unfortunate that the Orwellian, corporate, double-speak term "issue" perpetrated on us by the Harvard Business School is now being used so frequently by so many in business and academia. Just as "detention center" sounds so much nicer than "jail," the reality is so much different than what is implied.
Isn't it bad enough that the Harvard Business School's overall philosophy has ruined our economy? Why does our language have to be distorted and toned down as well.
Wrong photo choice
It was announced June 5 that the University of Kentucky is laying off a "significant number" of employees due to continuing budget cuts. An unknown number of us, staff especially, are extremely concerned about our job status.
The picture that accompanied the story on Kentucky.com was totally inappropriate and insensitive.
It shows UK President Eli Capilouto at a podium beside a display of blue and white balloons (from an April event). It looks like a celebration of some sort.
I know the Herald-Leader has more pictures of Capilouto speaking than this. If no other picture was available, then the story should have run without one.
I'm just shaking my head as I try to continue to work and worry whether I'll have a job in 90 days.
Fight unequal pay
Attention: Moms, wives, single moms, young female college graduates, young girls graduating from high school and senior women. What do we all have in common? We are female.
What do we not have in common? Equal pay with our husbands, fathers, brothers and the male workers next to you.
Our senators just voted against the Equal Pay for Women bill. Sen. Rand Paul (202-224-4343) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (202-224-2541) just said we are not important enough to get the same pay.
Stand up, call your senators, vote them out of office so they will be looking for an equal pay job. And never stop dreaming that the impossible is possible.
Ware a treasure
Chris Ware: What can I say to do him justice?
The sweet little picture in the May 26 Life+Faith section about Vacation Bible School says much more than a thousand words.
I love his work. And he is an absolute treasure. He knows from whence our help comes.