505: Making a Difference | Michelle Naus, CFO, Tri-County Mental Health Services, Inc.

Listen to the Episode Below (00:47:16)

The young man’s smile is broad and welcoming. It’s the type of photo that colleges and universities frequently use to attract young applicants. However, when featured on the home page for Tri-County Mental Health Services, Inc., the image’s message seems less manufactured and perhaps more ambitious as it seeks to signal hope to families seeking mental health and substance abuse services.

As the primary safety-net provider of behavioral health services to a community of more than 346,000 people, Tri-County, of Kansas City, Missouri, keeps hope in large supply, along with treatments, therapies, and professional guidance. Just what role finance leadership plays in delivering Tri-County’s services may not have been entirely evident if not for the untimely death of the organization’s CFO.

New leaders are often tasked with driving change, and there was little question that newly hired CFO Michelle Naus was well prepared to drive it. Still, Naus would first need to address a number of nagging obstacles, including a new federal designation poised to radically alter how Tri-County got paid for its services.

As Naus explains her CFO priorities, certain qualities less visible among her leadership peers come into view. Not unlike the message conveyed by the smiling young man, that of Tri-County’s CFO is less manufactured and more ambitious.

CFOTL: What are your priorities as a finance leader over the next 12 months?

Naus: For Tri-County and me over the next 12 months, we are really at a point where our federal demonstration project is ending for our CCBHC (Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic) designation. There is legislation in the federal government to extend it. But luckily for us, the State of Missouri has also put in a state plan amendment to extend it. So for us in the next two months, we will find out what our fate is for the foreseeable future. Will we continue being paid on a PPS or a per-visit fee? Or will we go back to the old way of doing our mental health services, with a fee-for-service setup? For us, that’s a big deal. That’s going to be very strategic for us–knowing which way to go and just continuing from an information technology standpoint and making sure that we are ready for the next step in healthcare, because healthcare continues to change.

We have new ways to submit information. We have new requirements that are put on us daily. We’re making sure that we’re ready for this. But then, in mental health in general, I think that we’re going to see a huge boom. It continues to grow. People are diagnosed every day with different mental health issues, substance use issues. It’s a topic that has grown in the media and in society. More awareness of when folks are struggling will mean that we will need to serve more people. Our services will be in more demand, and the need will be growing. So for us, really, it’s about figuring out how we can do all of this and manage it with the funds that we have. jb