Davidson County abandons Cardinal Innovations for behavioral health services

Davidson County has joined several other North Carolina counties in severing ties with long-besieged Cardinal Innovations Healthcare.

At its last meeting, the Davidson County Council of Commissioners voted to approve a resolution declaring the county’s intention to disengage from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and realign with the Sandhills Center as the local management entity of behavioral health services.

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“We find that our current group is unable to meet the needs of our many children. Our council (social services department) has heard presentations for all groups and thinks this is the best decision. We see this as an opportunity to disengage from one situation and move on to another group, ”said Karen Watford, chair of the Davidson County Commissioners Council and deputy chair of the County Social Services Department Council. by Davidson.

Cardinal Innovations is the governing body that allocates government funding that coordinates patient care with healthcare providers for everything from substance abuse to foster care and mental health needs.

The vote to approve the resolution was 6 to 1 with Commissioner Fred McClure, who previously served on Cardinal’s board of directors for many years, voting against.

The adopted resolution stated the reasons for the separation:

  • challenges, including caps and delays in service authorization,
  • limited local providers and limited number of beds in facilities offering the highest level of care,
  • a lack of adequate placement of children in appropriate placements,
  • arbitrary refusals for a higher standard of care
  • lack of a smooth transition when planning for discharge from the hospital emergency room and
  • poor planning during the hospital emergency discharge process causing difficult transitions to higher levels of care.

The resolution also stated that “Davidson County has repeatedly addressed concerns directly to Cardinal over the years with little to no resolution and promises to do better.”

The process for Davidson County to part ways with Cardinal as a management provider and realign with the Sandhills Center can take up to nine months and includes a period of public review and comment, notification of all suppliers and final approval from North Carolina Secretary of Health Mandy Cohn.

Davidson County is just one of many counties that have decided to part ways with Cardinal Innovations. In November, the counties of Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, Forsyth, Stanly and Orange all began the process of severing ties with Cardinal.

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Last year, Mecklenburg County officials detailed an inadequate service model and long wait times for residents and highlighted poor management of emergency placements for abandoned or neglected children. Most of these issues revolved around the placement of children in foster care.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Innovations announced its merger with Vaya Health, which will take over coordination of services and other supports if approved by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The merger is expected to be finalized by June 2022.

Cardinal Innovations, which is funded by taxpayer dollars, is the largest of the state’s seven regional mental health agencies. It serves over 850,000 people and is responsible for managing and monitoring mental health services in 20 counties, including Davidson County.

There have been previous issues with Cardinal Innovations, including when the state took temporary control of the organization after serious mismanagement by executives was exposed after an audit in 2017.

The state auditor’s office accused Cardinal Innovations, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars from federal and state taxpayers, of overspending on salaries and benefits for their CEOs and on Christmas conferences and parties.

A health and social services report calculated that the salary of its former CEO, Richard Topping, was nearly three times that of the second highest CEO among the state’s seven regional mental health agencies. For fiscal 2016, Topping’s salary was $ 617,526.

The Department of Health and Human Services took over the organization for the sake of “leadership capacity” after Cardinal’s board of directors fired Topping and paid him and three other executives compensation of $ 3.8 million starting.

The audit also indicated that Cardinal had amassed $ 70 million in Medicaid money that should be spent on patients while spending generously on onboard pensions. In 2015 and 2016, Cardinal’s board visited a luxury hotel in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. According to the report, the bill for the 13 board members and their guests was $ 133,000, and the board only met for six hours during the trips.

During that same period, Cardinal Innovations cut funding for the Davidson County Workshop daytime skills training program and group home operations by 20%. Davidson’s Workshop serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Davidson County.

Davidson County Council of Commissioners have been considering changing local management bodies for several months, and some have attended DSS board meetings to hear presentations from various LMEs, including Cardinal and Sandhill.

Learn more about child protection:How the Davidson County CPS works to create, not break up families in protecting children

Several county commissioners expressed concern about the reach of change management organizations, but welcomed the proposed nine-month transition period. They said the most important part of the process is making sure there is a smooth transition without any disruption in services.

“As a parent myself, I am worried about what will happen,” said Commissioner Chris Elliott, “I am encouraged that there is time for a continuum of services and that if a change of provider is necessary, it will be a smooth transition, not delay in services… After the horror stories we have heard and what DSS has been through, I think it is in the best interest of the county to go with Sandhill .

General information reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.

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