Wake-Durham Mental Health Center Approved

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While the creation of a Wake-Durham mental health center has been in the works since the start of the year, Monday Wake County Commissioners made it a legal entity and approved $2 million in Board of Alcohol Control funds to cover start-up costs.

After the state denied Wake County’s application to provide mental health services, the county began its merger with Durham County to create one local management entity, or LME. To throw some more acronyms into the mix, this merger creates an MCO, or managed care organization, which is similar to an HMO. This organization will manage all local Medicaid funds for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services.

The MCO, named Alliance Behavioral Healthcare, will begin operations July 1, but won’t be fully operational until January 2013. Cumberland and Johnston counties will also use the new organization for mental health services, but they are not part of the agreement to run the new MCO.

With the creation of a legal entity, the appointed Board of Directors will be able to make financial decisions, such as adopting a budget, and approving policies and procedures.

Wake and Durham counties will each contribute $4 million in start-up funding. The Wake County Board of Alcohol Control will provide the first $2 million and possibly a second $2 million appropriation in June. If the ABC Commission can’t make the second installment, commissioners will have to find funding from other county departments.

The MCO will repay each county, along with 1 percent interest over five years starting in June 2013.

Denise Foreman, assistant to the city manager, said the county is looking for positions for the displaced employees of the county’s old LME. Of the 96 LME employees, 40 have been hired at the new MCO, 29 were placed in positions in the Health and Human Services Department, 17 retired and six have left since the merger started. Only four employees remain without positions.

County Outlines Short Session Priorities
County Commissioners Monday also outlined their priorities for the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2012 short session. County staff will be meeting with state legislators to discuss these priorities during this session.

Among the issues is a call for voter ID cards. Last month county commissioners approved supporting House Bill 351, which would require voters to present state-issued ID cards before casting their ballots. The March vote was split along party lines and drew opposition from a number of speakers during the public hearing.

Commissioner Erv Portman, one of three Democrats on the board, voted against the voter ID requirement.

“I feel that it’s important for the state to do everything to improve the security of our elections, but that must be balanced with ensuring that it doesn’t disenfranchise any citizens,” he said.

Portman is in favor of the other local agenda items, which included seeking legislation that would allow the state to pull mental heath, disability and drug abuse services from the consolidated Human Services. Currently, these services are consolidated with public health and social services.

Related to the new LME, the county is also looking to change the way the state governs LMEs. Foreman said that some of the current regulations in place could hinder the success of some of the new organizations.

“One of the key things we are looking for here is to make sure that the counties have a role in the malefactions that are made and the outcomes,” Foreman said.

Other state-wide and cross-county issues that the commissioners voted to support were increasing the county lottery funds, restoring mental health funding, allow human services administrative flexibility and authorize county broadband public/private partnerships.

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