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UPDATE: CenterPoint completes move to MCO level by deadline [Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.]

By Richard Craver, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 01--CenterPoint Human Service has been given state regulatory approval to become a managed-care organization, effective Friday, ending a more than three-year quest.

CenterPoint oversees mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability services in Forsyth, Davie, Rockingham and Stokes counties. Its fiscal 2012-13 budget of $105.7 million comes mostly from Medicaid reimbursement fees and taxpayer money.

Julie Henry, a N.C. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, confirmed the state's approval Thursday.

The primary MCO goal is combining the management of Medicaid and state funds at the community level, in a manner similar to an insurer, to reduce costs and add more accountability and consistency to reform. The change allows MCOs to operate with fewer local restrictions.

"Once an MCO is operational, DHHS will continue to provide ovesight to ensure compliance with all state and federal requirements and access to services and quality behavioral health care for Medicaid recipients," Henry said.

"DHHS also will monitor the performane of the MCOs to achieve specified consumer outcomes, system performance and cost savings."

CenterPoint began pursuing MCO status in 2010 in response to a state initiative aimed at reducing the number of local management entities in North Carolina.

"This monumental achievement is made possible through community support, county funding assistance and a lot of hard work by stakeholders and staff," said Betty Taylor, CenterPoint's chief executive.

Taylor said the agency expects to have more than 1,200 network providers as an MCO. The agency hired 90 employees to help handle the new MCO duties, which more than doubled its previous workforce of 86.

Taylor said CenterPoint's board approved the MCO contracts Thursday. It secured a one-time loan of $800,640 from Forsyth as part of paying for its $3.7 million in MCO transition costs.

She said consumers should not notice a difference in how CenterPoint operates as a MCO. She said transitions for care coordination have already occurred for all behavioral-health patients.

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"With our increased staff, we have been able to increase our care coordination efforts, for example care coordination went from one hospital liaison to three, which increased our presence in hospitals in our catchment area and outside our catchment area," Taylor said.

CenterPoint was one of three LMEs to receive state permission Nov. 30 to delay MCO implementation until Feb. 1. If CenterPoint had not met the deadline, state regulators could have moved affected its counties to an operating MCO by July 1.

CenterPoint officials requested the additional time upon the recommendation of Mercer, a health-care consulting group contracted by DHHS to review whether an LME is prepared to transition to an MCO.

Henry said Alliance Behavioral Healthcare and Partners Behavioral Health Management also began MCO operations today. That made 11 MCOs in the state.

DHHS has given MeckLINK Behavioral Healthcare and Coastal Care until March 1 to qualify as an MCO, or the counties in its territory would be transferred to an operational MCO by July 1 -- the state's deadline having the entire state covered by MCOs.

CenterPoint officials learned Monday they would have a majority of new faces on their board after the Forsyth Board of Commissioners appointed four first-time representatives Monday.

Board composition was a hot-button issue most of 2012 as part of the MCO transition process.

There are at least nine new representatives on the 16-member CenterPoint board, counting a new Rockingham County commissioner, three mandated consumer and family advisory (CFAC) representatives, and an appointee from the secretary of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Some Forsyth commissioners have criticized how Taylor has dealt with them and how she runs CenterPoint. They said they wanted to appoint members that would be willing to give more direction to Taylor since only the board and DHHS secretary has the ability to replace the chief executive.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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