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Despite Decision, MeckLINK Proceeds As Normal

Mecklenburg County officials learned last week they will not get hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid funds to administer mental health, disability, and substance abuse services. But, the county is proceeding as if will get the money, anyway, despite the state’s decision to reassign those funds to an outside organization.

For the past two years, the county’s mental health agency, MeckLINK, has been preparing to manage more than $200 million in Medicaid funds for Mecklenburg residents and has hired more than a hundred new workers. The preparation is part of a state-wide initiative to change how these Medicaid funds are distributed.

But, last week, a state consulting company found that MeckLINK’s financial and IT systems would not be ready by the deadline of February 1st. So, outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Al Delia stripped the county of responsibility, and reassigned the funds to another, outside organization—Cardinal Innovations, formerly PBH. But, MeckLINK is still preparing, as though that never happened.

“We felt like it only made sense that we continue down that path,” says Michelle Lancaster, the county general manager. “We have the staff, we’ve made the investment, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

County officials have appealed to the new McCrory administration to reverse the former Secretary’s decision, and they are preparing a variety of arguments, including questioning the legitimacy of the imposed deadline and the Secretary’s authority to make his decision. County officials, including Lancaster, believe that the consulting company is wrong, and MeckLINK will be ready by February 1st.

“We had made extensive progress,” Lancaster says. “And, if what everyone is interested in is getting good results for mental health consumers in the community, then we think we’re on the right path for that.”

Until they hear back from the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Lancaster says MeckLINK won’t offer any support to Cardinal Innovations. A Cardinal spokesperson e-mailed that the company does not need county assistance, just yet.