An independent salary survey shows that most Pierce County mental health professionals generally made more money than other comparable employees.
“This study is meant to help determine whether it is more cost effective for the county to provide mental health services directly or offer them through an outside contractor,” said Pierce County Councilmember Dick Muri (R-Steilacoom), chair of the council’s Performance Audit Committee. “The results show that if the county is to continue offering services directly — instead of using private-sector or nonprofit providers — we have to get our costs under control.”
Pierce County employees at both the low and high ends of the salary scale were found to have higher salaries than others compared in the survey conducted by Sacramento, Calif.-based JM Management Consulting, which was part of a performance audit mandated by council Ordinance No. 2006-17. Thirteen other employers in Pierce, King, Thurston and Kitsap
counties participated in the survey.
Only the county’s nurse practitioners made generally less than the market average. Registered nurses’ salaries were found to be in line with averages.
The survey examined five “direct services” the county provides: involuntary commitment evaluations; short-term crisis intervention services; inpatient mental-health services; involuntary commitment for drug and alcohol problems; and jail mental health. The mental health division of the county’s Department of Human Services operates as the Pierce County Regional Support Network (RSN) under a contract with the state. The RSN has an annual budget of $52 million.
Private nonprofit agencies used to provide some of the mental health services the county now offers. Between 2000 and 2002 crisis and inpatient services were reorganized and consolidated into a central location to be performed by county employees.
“Unless we get a handle on our costs, we’re going to go out of business in this county,” Muri said. “We could potentially return to contracting everything out like we used to.”
The Performance Audit Committee Thursday, July 20 voted unanimously to accept the salary survey.
CONTACT: Councilmember Dick Muri, 253-798-3308; or Brad Chatfield, Communications/Legislative Analyst, 253-798-7790