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Behavioral Health

Before Layoffs, Clinic Closure, Metrocare Quietly Issued CEO A Two-Month Extension

By Shawn Shinneman |

Metrocare Services and CEO John Burruss have inked a short-term contract extension while the Dallas County behavioral health agency considers a longer term deal.

Metrocare and Burruss agreed on the deal in late March, extending Burruss’ contract through June 30, according to documents obtained through an open records request. The contract had been set to expire on April 28.

Burruss’ contract extension runs through June 30.

The largest mental health provider in Dallas County, Metrocare has had a difficult last 18 months, including the recent news that it will lay off more than 40 people, close a clinic, and freeze salaries for executives, administrators, and managers.

In late February, a Metrocare spokesperson characterized the prospect of a new contract for Burruss as a matter of when rather than if, telling me that the ad hoc review committee “was assembled to work out the details of a new contract as they do routinely.”

That committee has met eight times since then, most recently on May 3, according to Metrocare’s website.

Terry James, an attorney with Dallas-based West & Associates LLP who has served as the chair of Metrocare’s Board of Trustees since late March, did not respond to specific questions about the contract negotiations.

Although Metrocare is a government agency subject to open meetings laws, discussions about personnel occur during closed session. A Metrocare spokesperson has not responded to multiple attempts to get in touch in recent days.

In late February, D CEO Healthcare published an in-depth look at the agency’s financial issues, which have been spurred on by cash reserves sinking into the negative and a software division with high hopes that was eventually sold at a significant loss. Burruss also says the agency was hurt by a loan that fell through in early 2017 amid uncertainty over the new administration.

At one point in late 2017, Metrocare was unable to pay pharmaceutical vendors and had to send patients elsewhere for prescriptions. After previously forecasting revenue of $126 million for fiscal 2018, the agency now expects to bring in about $115 million, according to the minutes from its March board meeting.

Those minutes also show that James was elected as the new board chair during the meeting, after previous chair Jill Martinez stepped down from the position. Metrocare regularly holds board elections in March. Martinez had served as chair since 2014.

I caught hold of a memo from Burruss to employees last week that informed the team of the layoffs—a different source tells me it could be as many as 60 people–and the pending closing of the Midway Center in Addison.

“For some time now, Metrocare’s Board of Trustees and Executive Team have been wrestling with hard financial choices,” Burruss says in the email. You’ll find the full text of that note at the bottom of last week’s story, also linked above.