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Cardinal Execs Face Mecklenburg County Commissioners After Accusations Of Inadequate Service

Alex Olgin
WFAE file photo

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare executives defended themselves before Mecklenburg County commissioners Tuesday following accusations that the managed care organization, which coordinates behavioral health care for 825,000 Medicaid recipients in 20 North Carolina counties, provided inadequate service. 

The organization has been under fire following a Feb. 18 meeting where Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman suggested Mecklenburg County should consider ending its relationship with Cardinal. 

At the meeting, which Cardinal representatives said they were not invited to, Trotman accused Cardinal of denying or delaying care for 42 abandoned or neglected children in Mecklenburg County. He also said Cardinal cut funding for the county’s mobile mental health crisis response team, which he said caused the team to miss 52 calls for service in 2 ½ months. 

Cardinal Chief Operating Officer Dietrick Williams told commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting there were “quite possibly” delays in service.

“We acknowledge that we have opportunities within our network. We need to increase access,” Williams said. 

But he added that all children who were in need of emergency placement received services through Cardinal. 

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

Sutten suggested commissioners from the 20 counties Cardinal serves work together with the organization and North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services to discuss possible solutions and develop a work plan. 

“Let’s work together rather than against one another,” Sutten said, adding that the counties and Cardinal should “hold each other accountable.”

Several commissioners, including Vilma Leake, were wary of Cardinal’s assertions at the meeting. 

“I want to know the ZIP code of the 40 children that you did not serve or were slow in serving,” Leake told Sutten. 

Cardinal has hired a third-party consultant to help develop a “child welfare model,” according to its presentation Tuesday. The company is scheduled to meet next week with leaders from the state health department and various North Carolina commissioners.

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.