By state-mandate, Mecklenburg County’s mental health agency MeckLINK will lose its Medicaid contract at the end of March, less than a year after the county hired more than 200 employees and launched the agency as part of a statewide reorganization. Now county staff are working to save the jobs of the employees MeckLINK has hired.
The state’s oldest, largest organization handling these services, Cardinal Innovations, is taking over, and county officials want them to bring in as many of MeckLINK’s 200 employees as possible.
“We would like the salary offer to be, at minimum, the current salary the employee earns for Mecklenburg County,” assistant county manager Michelle Lancaster told the board of commissioners in December. “If their comparable salaries at Cardinal are higher, that’s the salary the employee should receive.”
And, Lancaster said, if Cardinal terminates newly hired MeckLINK staff in the next year, they should get severance. Cardinal has not agreed to those terms—a spokesman says the organization will offer salaries at its usual rates.
But, on New Year’s Eve, Cardinal posted 197 positions exclusively for MeckLINK—60 more than it projected and coinciding almost exactly with the number of MeckLINK employees. Cardinal chief administrative officer Steven Timmons says the increase from the original projection was necessary to keep service consistent.
“Once we saw what they do and how they do it, we saw the need to stay with the number they originally recommended, which is close to 200,” Timmons says.
Timmons says MeckLINK staff will get priority consideration, but not a guarantee of employment.
Lancaster describes the job postings as a good start, but says the county and Cardinal still are not much closer to a deal. Other issues, like if the county will get representation on Cardinal’s board, remain to be resolved.