County losing oversight of more mental health money

Mecklenburg County will no longer manage $17 million in state money for mental health services after North Carolina health officials assigned the oversight to Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions.

The money, along with a similar amount of county funds that Mecklenburg will continue to manage, goes toward services that aren’t covered by federal Medicaid funds, Assistant County Manager Michelle Lancaster said.

The transition is part of a larger April 1 transfer of more than $200 million in Medicaid money that the county’s MeckLINK Behavioral Healthcare is overseeing until it is shut down on March 31.

A state law passed in June is forcing the county to turn over MeckLINK to Kannapolis-based Cardinal.

Mecklenburg had asked state officials to allow the county to continue oversight of the non-Medicaid money, but Lancaster told county commissioners that the state denied her request and decided to transfer oversight to Cardinal.

The move only brings more uncertainty to consumers already uncertain about the status of services they need because of the transition.

“Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any impact from the perspective of folks who receive services,” board Chairman Trevor Fuller said. “The services will still be provided but at the discretion of Cardinal. We used to have discretion over the services and took a more expansive view to include more residents.

“We are encouraging Cardinal to take the same view, but we just don’t know yet.”

Commissioner Bill James called the transfer a loss for the county and “a big win for Cardinal. “What this means is that some people now covered may not be, but the control over mental health in Mecklenburg County is squarely with Cardinal,” he wrote in an email.

Late Wednesday, Cardinal spokeswoman Rachel Porter said the agency is aware of Mecklenburg’s concerns.

“We are in close discussions with MeckLINK, and we are actively seeking their guidance about how these funds are used,” Porter said. “We are doing our best to mirror current MeckLINK service levels as closely as possible. We do not want Mecklenburg County consumers to experience any gaps in service.”