BOISE, Idaho -

Mental health professionals blasted a private company managing behavioral health care for low-income Idaho residents, saying the system is plagued with hours-long delays that could put their clients at risk.

A joint House and Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting Friday provided a venue to criticize Optum, a Minnesota-based health care services management company.

Since September, it's being paid $10.5 million monthly to administer outpatient behavioral health services for Idaho's Medicaid program as the state seeks to as it seeks to control costs.

However, providers in Idaho say this transition has been fraught with problems, including hours on hold with company representatives to authorize payment for services for people suffering from mental illnesses.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is mulling penalties because Optum isn't meeting its contract obligations.