2 Meck leaders join Cardinal mental health board

Mecklenburg County Commissioner George Dunlap and retired Carolinas HealthCare System executive Russ Guerin have joined the board of Cardinal Innovations, which took over most mental health services from county government this spring.

Cardinal, a managed care organization based in Kannapolis, took over $200 million in Medicaid funding for mental health, developmental disabilities and addiction services in April, after the state legislature forced county leaders to dissolve the county-operated MeckLINK. Cardinal already managed similar services for 15 other counties.

The handoff took place after more than a year of public turmoil. Some county officials and people who use the services worried that Cardinal wouldn’t provide the same level of care.

The appointment of Mecklenburg representatives to Cardinal’s board was part of the agreement between the county and Cardinal. Dunlap, who chairs the county commissioners’ health and human services committee, was one of two who voted against authorizing negotiations with Cardinal last fall. He said at the time he worried that federal Medicaid money wouldn’t be used to serve those who need care.

On Wednesday, after attending his first Cardinal board meeting, Dunlap said the transition seems to have gone smoothly and he has heard no complaints from constituents.

“All indications are that everything is going well,” he said.

Guerin was a leader at Carolinas HealthCare for 26 years before he retired as executive vice president of business development and planning in 2013. Cardinal spokeswoman Kim McMillan said he was named to the board because of his expertise, not specifically as a Mecklenburg representative.

Guerin and Dunlap join 10 other board members who oversee services throughout the 16-county region.