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Mental health care provider C4 joins Cook County's health plan, staves off closure

Friday, May 15, 2015
Crain's Chicago Business
by Kristen Schorsch

Under the agreement, the Uptown-based behavioral health care provider, known as C4, will continue those services as part of CountyCare. The Cook County Health and Hospitals System's Medicaid managed care plan is the second-largest in the Chicago area, with nearly 180,000 members as of the end of April.

“This comes at a critical time for our consumers and our employees,” C4 CEO Eileen Durkin said in a statement. “The agreement provides C4 the opportunity to serve an expanded patient base through CountyCare. It also provides the stability we need to serve our current consumers, as well as continuing to be able to support our dedicated employees.”

She did not immediately respond to further questions. A Cook County Health spokeswoman said the deal is effective immediately.

Last month, Durkin announced that C4 would close at the end of May. The 42-year-old organization, which treats about 10,000 patients a year, was beset by billing woes and couldn't get about $1.5 million in bills for services it provided out the door quick enough. The nonprofit existed on billing and receiving just $1.5 million each month.

“Over the coming months, C4's expertise will assist in expanding behavioral health capacity in the health plan and fits neatly with the health plan's strategy to provide increased and innovative behavioral health solutions,” Dr. John Jay Shannon, CEO of Cook County Health, said in the statement. “The C4 model is widely respected and something we hope to replicate throughout the county to serve all CountyCare members and ultimately all of our patients.”

CountyCare started as a pilot program with Medicaid in 2012. Its provider network includes the health system's two hospitals, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital on the Near West Side and Provident Hospital on the South Side, as well as more than 30 other hospitals and over 130 primary care sites. C4 is already part of that network. It's not clear how the new deal bolsters the nonprofit's relationship with CountyCare.

The goal of creating the health plan was to transform Cook County Health from a place where low-income patients typically waited until they were sick before seeing a doctor and instead wound up in the emergency room, costing the cash-strapped system more money than if they had regular care.

CountyCare has brought in so much new revenue and insured patients that Cook County Health is looking to build new facilities and talking about expanding services, just hopeful goals in the past.

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