Dickson pitches plea

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 24, 2006

WINTON – Hertford County Health Director Curtis Dickson made an appeal to the board of commissioners Monday night for 12 new employees to manage the new structure of the community’s mental health services.

While Dickson did address the board concerning how reforms in North Carolina’s health laws have forced local governments to reorganize of local services, the director acknowledged that his new plan would not require the county to spend any additional funds.

Reforms in health care legislation regarding mental health services have forced the Roanoke Chowan Human Services to cease offering certain services to clients and to reconstruct themselves as an oversight organization.

North Carolina areas that will be affected by the reforms have been forced to create &uot;LME’s&uot; or Local Management Entities.

&uot;This means that our regional mental health agency has to divest itself of all direct care services,&uot; Dickson stated. &uot;They will be tasked with managing the funding to newly approved entities.&uot;

Several private vendors have already been outsourced to act as direct care providers to clients who had previously been serviced by the regional authority, but Dickson notes there are three areas of mental health treatment that have fallen between the cracks.

&uot;We need to absorb the services which the regional entity can no longer provide,&uot; Dickson stated. &uot;It is our hope that the county can assume some of the necessary behavioral health services.&uot;

Dickson wants to see the county provide services in, Community Outreach, psychologist referrals and psychiatrist referrals.

According to Dickson, the Community Outreach program and the psychologist referral programs would both pay for themselves.

&uot;The Community Outreach service is usually reimbursed by Medicaid,&uot; Dickson stated. &uot;The psychologist referral service is generally a break-even program.&uot;

Dickson did articulate the psychiatrist referral would need to be subsidized by state mental health funding.

Dickson explained how the legislative reforms have forced the current Mental Health program to relocate from their current building.

Dickson has proposed moving the health agency into rental space while his department seeks funding to renovate the existing Home Health space and it’s adjacent clinical space.

&uot;We are negotiating with Roanoke Chowan Human Services to assist us with the out-of-pocket costs needed to get the new Behavioral Health services up and running,&uot; Dickson said. &uot;We do not have a firm commitment yet, but they are working with us on these costs.&uot;

Dickson stated that the community outreach program would require two adult caseworkers and three child caseworkers; the psychologist referral program would require two psychologists.

According to Dickson, Human Services already has two psychologists who have expressed interest in staying in the private sector as opposed to working under the auspices of the new regional authority.

&uot;The psychiatrist referral service would require us to recruit a psychiatrist as the current one is leaving,&uot; Dickson stated. &uot;We already have a physician’s assistant and a mid-level provider that desire to remain in the public sector.&uot;

Dickson said two clerical personnel would be needed to handle issues such as billing and income eligibility for the psychiatrist referral service.

Hertford County Commissioner Johnnie Farmer reiterated the concerns of Dickson to fellow board members.

&uot;By June 30, 2007 the regional health authority will be out of the service business altogether,&uot; Farmer stated. &uot;A move like this would allow us to offer our clients a continuity of services as well allow some of our health professionals to keep their benefits.&uot;

In other board of commissioners news:

The board approved a request from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service to bring the salary of the Cooperative Extension Secretary up to the standard set by the state. The county would need to contribute approximately $2,900 to the $5,450 currently allocated by the county for that position.

Commissioner Howard J. Hunter III was unanimously selected by the board to serve as the Voting Delegate for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) Annual Conference being held in Forsyth County, on Sept. 7-10.

The board has scheduled a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday Sept. 5 at Commissioners Room at 704 King Street in Winton. The hearing will be to allow citizens an opportunity to comment on financing for the Emergency Services Building Project.