Mental health care providers blast private manager

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Mental health professionals blasted a private company now managing behavioral health care for low-income Idaho residents, saying the system is plagued with problems that not only make the process more difficult but could put patients at risk.

A joint House and Senate Health and Welfare meeting Friday provided a venue to criticize Optum, a Minnesota health care services management company.

Since September, it's been administering outpatient behavioral health services for Idaho's Medicaid program.

However, providers say the transition has been plagued by poor communication, including spending hours on hold with the company's representatives.

Provider Paul Hymas fears the result will be continued high suicide rates.

Sen. Lee Heider, the Republican chairman, acknowledged the state has been deluged with complaints and pledged "to try and get to the bottom of that."