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State leaders meet to discuss changes in mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services

More than 65 leaders of the North Carolina public mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse system gathered on April 30 to discuss the state system’s transition to managed care. The School’s Jordan Institute for Families and the Kenan-Flagler School of Business hosted the “Leading in Transition to Accountable Behavioral and I/DD Care” conference at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education.

Representatives from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the Division of Medical Assistance, the Division of Mental Health and the state’s local management entities or LMEs, attended the daylong event. Participants spent much of the session discussing how consumers will be affected by the transition to a managed care system. Currently, LMEs are charged with overseeing services in different regions of the state, but next year, a broader managed care provider network will be in place and offer consumers Medicaid-covered services through a waiver system.

The conference gave all the parties involved a chance to sit at the same table to “chart their outcomes, their principles and values, and to craft the path that they’re going to take to the future,” said Gary Nelson, director of the Leading in Transition team and an associate director at the Jordan Institute.
The new system, which all 100 counties are expected to be under by 2013, aims to promote enhanced services to clients, while using public funding more efficiently and effectively.

“So the efficient part of this would be to get rid of the redundancies,” Nelson explained. “The effective piece would be to make sure that resources are aligned to outcomes so that we actually get the outcomes that individuals and families want. So, it’s not just about (saving) money. It’s about money and impact and effectiveness.”

One of the biggest challenges that agencies and state leaders face is figuring out what roles each plays now that the LMEs are merging across the state to create the larger managed care provider networks. Albert Delia, acting secretary for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, encouraged conference participants to “share their successes and failures” and to be willing to learn from both.

The conference was a precursor to a larger event in June. That gathering will expand the conversation to include state officials, local public agencies, advocates and consumers who will further discuss the direction of the state’s mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse system.

Editor’s note: For additional information, contact Grace Oran, program assistant, at or (919) 843-9224.