Mecklenburg County commissioners voted 7-2 last night to work out an agreement to turn oversight of mental health, substance abuse, and disability care to Cardinal Innovations, less than a year after the county launched its own agency, MeckLINK, at a cost of more than $8 million. The county started MeckLINK because of a state reorganization, and now it has to give it up because of another one.
MeckLINK is the only one of 10 state organizations that oversees mental health for a single county or is run directly by a county. In May, state lawmakers passed a bill that says a county can’t run its own organization. So, commissioners have two options: Outsource to one of the other nine or create an authority to run it. That second option would cost another two million dollars to spin off MeckLINK, plus hundreds of thousands more annually. The state wants whittle down the number of organizations from an original 11 to just a handful. That means MeckLINK probably wouldn’t survive much longer anyway.
“There’s a significant risk that if we set up our own independent agency, spending this 2.8 million dollars, within a relatively short period of time, we’d find ourselves in the same boat,” Commissioner Dumont Clarke said.
The county asked the other managed care organizations if, and how, they would take over for MeckLINK. Only Cardinal Innovations, the largest, responded.
Commissioners voted last night for county staff to work out a deal with Cardinal. If they do not come to terms, the vote also allows them to simply dissolve MeckLINK when its contract expires next April, and put the onus on the state to fill the gap.