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Mecklenburg Commissioners Set To Hear From Cardinal After Accusations Of Poor Service

Alex Olgin
WFAE file photo


Mecklenburg County commissioners are set to meet Tuesday with representatives from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare less than a month after commissioners accused the company of providing inadequate service. The company coordinates behavioral health care for the county’s Medicaid recipients.

At a Feb. 18 meeting, Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman listed several grievances against Cardinal. He said Cardinal cut funding for Mecklenburg’s mobile mental-health crisis response team, which Trotman said caused the team to miss 52 calls for service in 2 1/2 months.

Trotman said the county could consider severing its ties with Cardinal and finding another managed care organization.


But Cardinal wasn’t invited to that meeting, said CEO Trey Sutten. 


Sutten said Cardinal did not cut funding for the crisis response team but changed its funding model.


“What we said to this provider is, ‘We’re no longer going to cut you blank checks. We want to know what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for' -- because every dollar matters that much more today,” Sutten said, adding that he is glad the organization will present to commissioners Tuesday.


Cardinal serves 19 other counties in addition to Mecklenburg and has a troubled recent history in North Carolina. A state audit in 2017 found, among other things, that the company’s former CEO Richard Topping spent tax dollars on lavish trips for its board of directors. North Carolina’s health department temporarily took over Cardinal and fired its board of directors before returning control to a new board in 2018. 


Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.