Fri May 31, 2013
NC House Considers Turning MeckLINK Over To An Authority
The state and Mecklenburg County are once again at odds over who should control hundreds of millions of dollars of Medicaid funds for mental health services.
Mecklenburg county commissioners feel like state lawmakers are out to get them, at least when it comes to the county’s new mental health organization. The county spent two years and $3 million setting up MeckLINK, in response to a state-wide reorganization, only to have the state’s Department of Health and Human Services nearly shut it down in January, a month before it launched.
So, when they got word Tuesday about a legislative effort to give control of the agency to an authority, commissioners started laughing.
The county’s legislative liaison, Brian Francis, explained that a House committee had just passed an amendment requiring mental health agencies be managed by authorities. That means commissioners would lose direct control of MeckLINK, although they might appoint the authority—that’s still unclear. But, commissioners and county officials were not happy the legislators hadn’t talked to them first.
“An effort to takeover local government that’s done in the dark of night—which is what I consider this to be—doesn’t really reflect, in my view, cautious and careful government,” said Commissioner Travis Fuller.
Fuller said state lawmakers are making a habit of meddling in local affairs. He pointed to efforts to transfer Charlotte-Douglas airport from city control to a regional authority, as another example.
Representative Nelson Dollar of Wake County is the architect of the statewide reorganization that led to Mecklink’s creation, and he offered the amendment. Dollar couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. County staff told commissioners Dollar wants to standardize how every mental health agency operates and he’d made a similar effort last year that didn’t pass.
The full House is slated to vote on the legislation on Monday. The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to fight the potential new law.