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PROBE: Dec. 4, 2001

December 04, 2001

GOIN' MENTAL —When I was arrested for domestic violence, the cops took me to the county mental health department where I was kept overnight in a little room. The next day they took me to jail. I didn't get any other services. After I got out of jail I went to my own doctor. I just got a bill saying I owe $4,000 to county Behavioral Health Services. They want me to pay $50 a month. My insurance says it will pay only $1,000 for the total bill. Help! — Overcharged, Brawley

The good news is you don't owe $4,000 but you might owe $1,000. If your insurance will pay $1,000, you'll end up paying nothing.

We couldn't find out anything for certain because your mental health treatment is confidential. We couldn't even confirm you had been there. We can tell you what probably happened.

Mike Horn, director of county Behavioral Health Services, said you probably got a routine letter sent to all patients.


"It confuses a lot of people," who then call screaming that they don't owe that much money, he said.

Services are billed on a sliding scale based on income, according to Horn. At your income level, you will pay NO MORE than $4,000 a year no matter what you run up in services, he said.

Horn said a night in the holding room at Behavioral Health usually adds up to around $1,000. That includes the cost of bringing in a psychiatrist to evaluate the patient.

If you don't have insurance, you can pay off the bill at $50 a month.

Having said that, we must tell you Mike Horn is a relative of the PROBE writer.

QUESTION: When I got a job at Wal-Mart I thought I could turn around my life. The day after Thanksgiving, I got my last welfare check. On my break at work, I cashed the check, wrapped the $500 in a $1 bill and stuck it in my pocket. I guess I lost the money on my way back to the check stand. I am a cashier.

Two hours later I discovered the money was gone. The store was super-packed that day with wall-to-wall people. I hoped somebody would return the money.

I know now that's not going to happen. Any hopes of anything for Christmas for my kids (two girls, ages 3 and 8 and a boy, 10 months) are gone. I can't pay the rent and we're going to end up on the street. I know now the world is full of dishonest people! — Frantic, Niland

We've found the world to be full of honest, caring people. That's how we, the careless types who jam $500 in cash in a pocket, survive.

But we believe in Christmas miracles. So, OK, if you found the money at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving, take it back. A family needs it.

QUESTION: On Dec. 1 some Grinch stole our electronic reindeer in our front yard. What is Brawley coming to if you can't celebrate Christmas without some blankety-blank ruining it? — Grinched, Brawley

OK, Grinch, that does it. We thought it was bad when you kidnapped Santa Claus and left a ransom note scrawled on a piece of brown paper. But when you stoop to grabbing innocent electronic reindeer, you have gone too far. Bah humbug! Shame!

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