A state agency has allowed chronic problems with oversight go unaddressed for at least the last three years, though we may never know the specifics or scope of the issues due to limitations of Tennessee’s public record laws.
Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (MHSAS) has failed to fix known issues first detailed in a 2013 audit report, a recent review has found. The department also did not note those issues on risk assessment reports, as required, according to the most recent audit of the agency released today.
“Management did not establish and implement internal controls as required by state policies or industry best practices,” the report reads. “Neither the prior finding nor details about this finding are disclosed in this public report due to security concerns. However, a detailed finding has been provided directly to management.”
MHSAS is tasked with providing mental health and substance abuse services, monitoring performance for services provided through juvenile court, and coordinating some housing services for people who are homeless, among other things.
The Mercury filed a Tennessee Open Records Act request this morning seeking the omitted information, a request that was promptly denied. Stephanie Maxwell, general counsel for Tennessee’s Comptroller of the Treasury, said via email that the requested information was exempt under Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-504(i), a somewhat robust section of state law that details a variety of documents exempt from prying public eyes. Protected information includes pretty much anything deemed to be a security threat, as well as “documents concerning cost of protecting government property” (whatever that means), and some other types of records.
The oversight issues were first noted in an audit report in January 2013. The most recent audit also noted that MHSAS’ board of trustees has not been operating in compliance with state statute, an issue MHSAS staffers say is already being addressed with updates to “reporting and accountability” procedures.
The report noted some strides MHSAS has made in different areas, including establishing a system to identify unmet public treatment needs and gaps in service and implementing programs to divert some people from the criminal justice system.
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