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Mecklenburg County Prepares To Cut Ties With Cardinal Innovations Healthcare

cardinal innovations Alex Olgin WFAE.JPG
Alex Olgin

Mecklenburg County is preparing to cut ties with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, the company that coordinates behavioral health care for the county’s Medicaid recipients.

Commissioners on Wednesday night unanimously authorized County Manager Dena Diorio to start the disengagement process. Commissioners Mark Jerrell and George Dunlap were recused from the vote. Union and Cabarrus county commissioners voted to disengage from the company last month.

“There’s probably eight or nine counties now that are talking about disengaging from Cardinal,” Diorio told commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting. “It’s the same stories, the same frustrations.”

Cardinal has faced repeated criticism from Mecklenburg County leaders. At a Feb. 18 commissioners meeting, which Cardinal representatives said they were not invited to, Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman accused Cardinal of, among other things, denying or delaying care for 42 abandoned or neglected children in the county.

In an Oct. 23 letter to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and Cardinal’s chief executive officer, Diorio and Forsyth County Manager J. Dudley Watts said the company was creating instability for residents by leaving gaps in mental health treatment.

“I feel that we are at a place of no return," Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake said Wednesday night. "The longer we wait, the worse it gets.”

Cardinal CEO Trey Sutten defended the company at the meeting during three minutes of public comment. Sutten said the company has made progress on problems raised by the county. He argued disengaging from Cardinal would create instability for people receiving care in Mecklenburg County.

If the disengagement process moves forward, Mecklenburg County leaders will need to select a replacement organization for Cardinal. On Wednesday night, Diorio suggested Partners Behavioral Health Management was a viable option.

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