In ordinary times, Tri-County Mental Health Services provides a safety net to uninsured Clay, Platte and Ray County, Missouri residents who need mental health or substance abuse services. But when the coronavirus crisis hit in March, the nonprofit clinic needed a safety net of its own.
All in-person group therapy programs at the clinic’s main Kansas City location, as well as all its school- and community-based services, came to an abrupt standstill as most of the 148-person staff pivoted to work remotely from home. The clinic’s limited service hours were reserved for patients with serious mental illnesses who needed injectable medications that could only be administered face to face.
The financial consequences of the shutdown were immediate, according to Tom Petrizzo, Tri-County’s Chief Executive Officer.
“We went from having 80 to 90 people visiting our three group rehab locations a day, down to 10 per day receiving services on Zoom,” he explains. “Fewer clients mean less revenue.”
Tri-County Mental Health Services depends on Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, as well as grants from the State of Missouri and other groups to fund the behavioral health services it delivers to more than 8,000 people each year.
To complicate matters further, some rural areas of the clinic’s service area had little or no internet service. Therapists and case workers were losing contact with clients who lacked technology or online access. Tri-County made the difficult decision to furlough 22 members of its staff. Meanwhile, the federal government was rolling out the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to be administered by the Small Business Administration as part of its new coronavirus relief package.
"From the moment we inquired about the PPP loan, Commerce was on it. With them helping us through the application process, everything went smoothly."Tom Petrizzo, CEO, Tri-County Mental Health Services
“I was told we had to apply that very day, and that Commerce would help us,” he recalls.
A banker from Commerce personally walked Tri-County’s chief financial officer through the PPP application process. The completed application was submitted by 5 p.m. that same day. Four days later, their loan had been approved by the SBA, and the PPP funds hit their account a few days later.
The influx of cash allowed Tri-County to bring back the group therapy, medical record and administrative support staff that had been furloughed just eight days earlier. It also enabled the clinic to redeploy other resources to purchase more than two dozen laptops and tablets, as well as the internet hotspots and Zoom accounts its staff would need to upgrade its tele-health services.
The technology investment included tablets for a residential care facility clinic where 12 clients live and for a local police department, which uses it to link to the Tri-County professional clinician who assesses situations police encounter in the local community on mental health calls.
“Many patients will be reluctant to return to our offices for quite a while,” says Petrizzo. Thanks to the upgrades, as many as 40 percent of Tri-County’s group meeting participants were attending online by mid-May, a number that continues to increase.
“If Commerce hadn’t helped us get the PPP loan, we would have had to furlough more staff, which would have hurt many people at risk in our community,” says Petrizzo. “The loan was a good bridge to get us back to full functioning.”