The Ellis County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in support of NorthSTAR at their Monday meeting. NorthSTAR is a behavioral health program and is currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, NorthSTAR is a publicly funded, managed care approach to the delivery of mental health and chemical dependency services. It provides a comprehensive mental health/substance abuse benefit package for all eligible individuals, and access to benefits is determined by clinical need, not funding source. It serves residents in Dallas, Collin, Ellis, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro and Rockwall counties.

The program serves the medically indigent and most Medicaid recipients, according to NorthSTAR’s website.

County Judge Carol Bush said NorthSTAR is a delivery mechanism for providing mental health assistance. NorthSTAR officials coordinate the delivery of services for the residents in Ellis County requiring mental health care.

Presenting the request for a resolution was NorthSTAR’s director Alex Smith.

“Before you is a resolution to support NorthSTAR. It was generated as a result of the Sunset Commission in Austin,” Smith said “Every six years, the health and human services agency comes under review. They made some recommendations that would have some serious consequences.”

Smith said what is in jeopardy is the indigent portion of the funding, which represents about 60-65 percent of the overall expenditures.

“If NorthSTAR goes away, we will no longer have the waiver model that we operate under that takes Medicaid dollars and indigent funds from the state and blends them into one pool of funding,” Smith said. “This would separate them out and it is not clear what would happen to the indigent money.”

Smith said NorthSTAR provides services for $1,500 a year per person, compared to the state, which provides services of $3,600 per person. When NorthSTAR started 15 years ago, it served about 10,000 clients. This past year it served 75,000 clients, Smith said.

“In Ellis County, we spent — this year alone — $2.8 million in outpatient services for residents. We spent another $2.3 million in pharmaceutical coverage in favor of Ellis County residents,” Smith said. “We are estimating another $1.5 - $2 million in hospital services for Ellis County residents. That is close to $8 million that we have spent in favor of Ellis County citizens.”

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved a one-time variance from the county rules, regulations and specifications for subdivisions and manufactured homes as it relates to two fire hydrants for two lots in the 100 block of Lakeway Drive in Waxahachie

• Approved a one-time variance from the county rules, regulations and specifications for subdivisions and manufactured homes as it relates 10 foot utility and building setback line for two lots in the 100 block of Lakeway Drive

• Approved a reliminary plat for phase three for Jordan Run Estates located off of Norrell Road

• Approved accepting an infrastructure of a culdesac located at the end of Lexi Lane

• Approved for Bush to sign a lease agreement for Xerox for a copier in the 40th District Court

• Approved to declare a 1982 International flatbed bridge truck, a 1992 Chevrolet 3500 and a 1994 International 49000 as surplus

• Approved a inter local agreement with cities of Ovilla and Red Oak

• Took no action on enacting a burn ban.

• Heard a status report on the use of compensatory time by county employees