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Bertie approves ECBH

WINDSOR – With the blessings of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, the vote is unanimous for a new age in behavioral health.

At their meeting on Monday night, the Bertie Commissioners adopted a resolution in support of the concept of regionalization and in creating a new regional local management entity that will serve the mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse needs of citizens in a nine-county area.

To fall under new state guidelines, Roanoke-Chowan Human Services (RCHS, which serves Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties) has been actively engaged over the past four years in merger talks. Those discussions with other mental health service centers in the region have centered on the fact that the state, in an effort to achieve financial efficiency, wants to develop entities that manage areas covering at least six counties and have a population base of 200,000.

Using those standards, RCHS joined in several discussions with other mental health service providers in eastern North Carolina. The result of those discussions led to the formation of East Carolina Behavioral Health (ECBH) which will serve approximately 383,000 citizens in Bertie, Beaufort, Craven, Gates, Hertford, Jones, Pamlico, Pitt and Northampton counties.

ECBH consolidates RCHS with the Neuse Center, Pitt County Mental Health Center and Beaufort County.

The newly formed group will become the local management entity for the nine-county region. That entity will be responsible for recruiting, directing and monitoring private providers of behavioral health services. The number of private providers is growing in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

“We will continue to operate as a local management entity through our office in Union,” Joy Futrell, RCHS Director, said on Monday night as she addressed the Bertie Commissioners.

Prior to voting on the resolution, Commissioner Norman Cherry Sr. told his colleagues there was no other choice but to approve the matter.

“We have to become a part of this or lose the support the state provides us in the way of mental health services,” said Cherry who represents the Bertie Commissioners on the RCHS Board of Directors. “No services will be lost with this merger.”

Cherry said he was pleased that Futrell, while not the ECBH director, would remain in charge of the local area.

“Mrs. Futrell will remain as the lead person in the Union office,” Cherry said. “It’s always comforting to have a familiar face still in the office.”

The merger, of which the Bertie Commissioners were the final group to approve, becomes effective July 1.

In a related issue, the Bertie Commissioners also approved the ECBH business plan for the next three years. That 46-page document outlined strategic objectives from 2007-2010 and the implementation date of each. It also listed RCHS’ financial status as of Dec. 31, 2006. That spreadsheet revealed an estimated unrestricted fund balance of $1.517 million.