Commission Roundup: Wake to Partner with UNC for Behavioral Health

Wake County officials say they can get more bang for their mental healthcare buck by partnering with UNC.

Representatives from Wake County, UNC Health Care and Alliance Behavioral Healthcare (Alliance) presented a framework Tuesday for a partnership among the three entities.

WakeBrook recovery center provides substance abuse treatment.

Alliance Behavioral Healthcare is the county's new Managed Care Organization, a partnership with Durham County required by changes in state law. The group now oversees management of behavioral health services in both counties.

The county appoints members to the new MCO board, and yet still provides some services that compete with it – a conflict of interest, Cooke said.

The transition requires Wake County to stop offering federally-funded behavioral health services currently provided by Wake County staff by January 2013.

Cooke told commissioners the county spends about $20 million per year on behavioral health services, much of which is duplicated by other programs. The partnership will solve the conflict of interest by turning that management over to UNC.

Learn more about the county's health services.

The exact picture of how the partnership will work is still unclear. Cooke said the goal is to rebalance services offered, optimize the dollars spent and overall, offer better care.

“I think it's a benefit for Wake County and our consumers, because I think the money can go farther,” he said. “And I think it's building on the expertise of UNC healthcare.”

Kevin FitzGerald, chief of staff at UNC, said the partnership is especially helpful during the transition to the new Managed Care Organization.

“What we believe we can bring to the table is a rigor and set of expertise I think will be helpful in managing this transition,” he said. “This will be a hand-in-hand effort with the MCO that you've entered into.”

FitzGerald said the particulars are under negotiation and a final plan will be brought before commissioners by August.

RTP Presents Master Plan Update
Research Triangle Park could someday feature mixed-used development, including shops and residences.

RTP officials presented a plan to commissioners Tuesday to overhaul the park in the next few decades. The goal is to remain competitive and keep RTP at the forefront of people's minds as they look for a place to set up business, said Bob Geolas, president of the Research Triangle Foundation.

Geolas said the creation of RTP was “a big, bold decision” and “one of the most ambitious big bets ever in our state.” In its early days, it was considered a unique and amazing thing.

A vision for the future of RTP. Rendering by the Research Triangle Foundation.

But now, they face competition as people seek different environments, that often include amenities, more services and a better quality of life for the more than 39,000 full-time employees and estimated 10,000 contractors inside.

There are no specific site plans yet, Geolas said, but the principles of the new plan are: density, nature and sustainability. The idea is to keep the beautiful landscapes and open spaces while creating some areas of density, offering a blend of new and old.

They have three goals: to maintain attractiveness to current tenants, continue to attract large companies and to attract broader range of tenants.

“We don't want to forget our bread and butter, which has been these large companies,” he said. “We want to create a great cohesive laboratory.”

The first part of the new plan includes a mixed-use center, which would be located in the Durham County section of the park. Geolas also wants to work more with universities to enhance research in the park.

The plan will take decades, he said. For now, the Research Triangle Foundation is working to get input from companies and begin working on regulatory changes needed to move forward. Such changes include zoning laws and amendments to the original state law that created a special tax district for RTP.

Geolas said while top corporate executives still list RTP in their top five “utopia” sites, younger people might list RTP in the top 10 or even top 50.

“We'd better be getting into the game of getting into their conversation of one of the places to grow,” he said. “[We want to] put together a plan that's big, exciting and that people are going to want to pay attention to.”

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