Rowan County working with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare on new foster child program

Rowan County working on new foster child program

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, a Charlotte-based facilitator to providers of services to residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions in 20 local counties is facing criticism over gaps in service.

Some counties, including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Stanly, and Union, have either severed ties or are talking about cutting ties with Cardinal. Rowan County had some of the same complaints, but took a different approach in dealing with the problems, according to local leaders.

As you may expect, Cardinal says it would rather work with members to fix problems than for them to leave.

“Despite the challenges, some of which are built into the system, despite that to come to the table with an open mind and an attitude to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do together,” said Karen Bentley of Cardinal Innovations.

That’s what has happened in Rowan County, according to Bentley and Rowan County Commissioner Judy Klusman.

“Cardinal is so accommodating,” Klusman said. “We feel very comfortable and we feel very blessed to be getting these funds. It will be over $1.7 million for our children and that’s pretty phenomenal.”

Klusman is referring specifically to a new Cardinal program announced in November. It’s $30 million for 20 counties. It meant nearly $800,000 for Rowan initially and it’s in the form of a monthly payment to every Medicaid-eligible child in foster care.

According to Cardinal, counties will be able to use these Medicaid funds to cover the cost of some preliminary or transitional care, or to address social determinants of health such as housing, transportation, food insecurity. “We want to make a meaningful impact for children who are separated from their families and in custody of social services, and we can’t wait for full system reform to do so,” said Trey Sutten, CEO.

“Having an example like Rowan to be able to articulate more broadly to other counites certainly is helpful, particularly when we talk about the foster care investment opportunities,” Bentley added. “We are committed fully to meeting the needs, primarily of our members because everything we do revolves around our members, but also the stakeholders.”

“It’s really about all of the health measures that go into helping a child be placed permanently with a relative or foster family. We don’t want our kids to keep getting moved around,” Klusman said.

Klusman also pointed out that the money is shared in such a way that the county can be creative in how it is used to help children. “It’s flexible money,” Klusman said, “and that’s the most important thing about this money.

“I think it was really just a commitment to a collaborative partnership and understanding that that is really what it takes, particularly in the business that we are all in and that is taking care of the most vulnerable citizens in our community,” Bentley said.

Cardinal also says that it is working to address some of the criticism it has gotten. “This approach is part of a larger child welfare program that Cardinal Innovations is implementing over the coming months. Additional components include immediate access to a care coordinator, shorter authorization times, and an expanded network of providers to care for children. Along with the new child welfare program, Cardinal Innovations has taken a number of additional steps to improve their service delivery to encompass plans around emergency department utilization and the number of services and providers readily available in any community.”

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