MICHIGAN CITY — As of 5 p.m. today, Madison Center is closing its doors forever.
No Madison Center officials responded to calls for comment Thursday. The South Bend-based, non-profit mental health clinic has been quietly shutting down its satellite offices outside of South Bend since the end of June. The contract Madison Center held with the state to be a certified community mental health care center also will be officially terminated today.
In Michigan City, this means the center’s estimated few hundred patients receiving counseling and other services will transition to the Swanson Center. Located in the Marquette Mall’s office building at 450 St. John Road, it has been working for the past two weeks to transition Madison Center’s clients and staff, said Matt Burden, Swanson Center executive director.
“Since we want to offer continuity of care for the clients to the greatest extent possible, Swanson Center has been taking on most of the staff in anticipation that most clients will want to continue to work with the same staff,” he said. “We’re also working to make sure that all of their clients can receive comprehensive services at Swanson Center if they choose.”
If appropriate, clients also can receive services at Swanson Center’s outpatient office in La Porte, 1230 W. Indiana 2, he said. He did not say if any Madison Center programs will be discontinued as patients transition to the Swanson Center.
About 20 counselors and other employees from the Madison Center, 3714 Franklin St., have chosen to transition, although a few resigned after hearing of the Madison Center’s closure, Burden said. One Madison Center employee who would not disclose her name said Swanson Center was forcing them to take pay cuts if they wanted to keep their jobs.
“Our salary offers are based on our own salary scales and experience, which are comparable across all community mental health centers in Indiana,” Burden said when asked about the alleged pay cuts.
The news comes nearly three months after the state sued Madison Center in federal court, alleging the organization owes it more than $10 million for reimbursements it received after filing false Medicaid claims.
Dr. Leslie Pejic, a clinical therapist who helped bring Madison Center to Michigan City in 2000 and once served as its director, said the agency provided much-needed day treatment services for children that other places like the Swanson Center didn’t provide.
“I’m terrifically saddened by the implosion of the Madison Center,” she said, referencing the financial state of the non-profit agency. It had to begin cutting costs and restructuring last year due to poor management, she said, adding, “I have many friends remaining there who were ethical and honest and provided great services. I’m very sad to see it go.”
The Madison Center’s website shows its offices in La Porte and Portage already have closed, and it has retained only its inpatient psychiatric services in South Bend. Offices in Elkhart and Plymouth will also close today.
Founded in 1949, Madison Center has provided comprehensive mental health and substance abuse services for St. Joseph, Elkhart, LaPorte, Marshall and Porter counties. It was the largest Medicaid mental health provider in the state before the closures.
Until spring 2009, Madison Center provided Michigan City Area Schools with “Real Choices,” an alternative program for students from six school districts, offered prior to expulsion to those with academic, behavioral and other issues.
MCAS Assistant Superintendent Carla Iacona said the school district stopped using Real Choices at the end of the 2008-2009 school year because they needed to “re-evaluate the effectiveness of the program.” In a News-Dispatch story published in June 2008, several parents publicly complained their children were provided little guidance while enrolled in Real Choices, instead spending most of their time playing cards or sleeping.