Meck County's MeckLINK moving forward, now with state support - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Meck County's MeckLINK moving forward, now with state support

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to give Mecklenburg County additional time for a review period to see if MeckLINK is ready to manage Medicaid services.

Last week, Mecklenburg County officials said they would move forward with plans to start oversight of Medicaid money for Behavioral Health, despite a decision by state health officials to give management to a private agency.

At the time, MeckLINK Behavioral Healthcare said it was aiming for a February 1st start date to take over managing the financial responsibilities and oversight of mental health, development and intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse services.

With the new agreement with the state, the live date has moved to March 1st. There will also be some checkpoints for MeckLINK to prove its readiness.

The first checkpoint is this week. The Secretary of DHHS will get the results of that review on February 1. There will be a second review mid-February. If allowed to proceed, MeckLINK will move forward with the March 1 live date.

"We are pleased that Dr. Wos shares our view that MeckLINK should implement the Medicaid waiver in Mecklenburg County," said Mecklenburg County Manager Harry L. Jones, Sr.

"This agreement aligns our efforts to achieve implementation at the earliest possible time and avoids the delay, expense and distraction of litigation. MeckLINK staff continues working diligently to prepare to implement the program, and we remain confident we will demonstrate readiness to begin operations by the deadline."  

If the reviews find MeckLINK is not ready, both the County and State have agreed the state will then go ahead with plans to reassign Medicaid management to the outside company.

Mecklenburg County officials are ready to move forward. Officials say they've spent millions of dollars, and hired staff to prepare for the launch.

The 24-hour call center went live already, with additional staff, to help handle the waiver program.

According to parents of special needs children in the county, MeckLINK's care coordinators have started doing home visits to set up a care plan for clients, and sign paper work.

Two weeks ago the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services ruled Mecklenburg County was not ready to run the medicaid waiver program, and assigned oversight to Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solution, a private company in Kannapolis.

Mecklenburg County officials say they plan to appeal the state's decision.

Meanwhile in an email to WBTV, the Director of Communications for Cardinal Innovations says, "We believe the Medicaid waivers will improve services for North Carolinians that need mental health, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance use services and supports". 

Rachel Porter says "our goal is to help ensure successful expansion of the waiver on behalf of the General Assembly and the Department of Health and Human Services.  We understand the responsibility of Mecklenburg County Commissioners to ensure that their citizens receive the care that they need.  We are hopeful for a quick resolution to this matter and will continue to comply with the directives of the Department regarding expansion activities."

Kim Beall, a parent of a special needs son, says she fought for years to get care for her 17 year old. She does not want to see management of Medicaid waiver taken away from Mecklenburg County.

She says her son's current provider, Independent Opportunities, works with Mecklenburg County. Beall is worried that if the state upholds the decision to give oversight to Cardinal, her son would have to get a new provider.

"Any special needs child needs the consistency, the structure. When there is not structure, there is the potential for a lot of problems", she says.

Beall says she signed an online petition started by another parent to force the Governor and state officials to reverse their decision.

She says "we've had an uphill battle to get the service we have now for my son and just to see another county or private company step in and maybe strip that or cut it in half breaks my heart".

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