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Commissioners get update on the future of mental health care

Janet Imrick 

Randolph Hub


ASHEBORO β€” Mental health services in Randolph County have new names but familiar faces, according to an update by Anthony Ward, the Trillium Mid-State regional vice president who gave a presentation to county commissioners in June. 


Trillium Health Resources is Randolph County's new LME/MCO after merging with Sandhills and Eastpointe. It now oversees mental and behavioral health services in 46 counties. 


The merger was a secretarial directive by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) in November, as part of the General Assembly's goal to roll out the delayed Tailored Plans for mental health care. The Tailored Plans, which were originally planned for 2022, went live on July 1 of this year. 


Ward, the CEO of Sandhills before the merger, shared an update on the process at the county commissioners' June 3 meeting. Trillium divided its catchment area into five regions with regional advisory boards that can make appointments to the governing board. Randolph County selected Commissioner David Allen and Ann Shaw as its board members. 


"A lot has changed this past year," Allen said. "Trillium was not even on anybody's radar a year ago at this time." 


The state's goal with Tailored Plans is to create whole person care system β€” including pharmacy and physical health care β€” for people with severe behavioral health issues, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most individuals with mild or moderate behavioral health needs are being served under Standard Plans. 


"In order to go live, we needed to have contracts with hospitals and the primary providers that work with those hospitals," Ward said. "When we had six LME/MCOs, the hospitals said that was too much to work with, too many variations." 


Last year, $44,607,064 in behavioral health services were provided in Randolph County. 


According to Ward, Trillium will have 51,000 Tailored Plan members, 163 Medicaid Direct members and 287,000 uninsured members in all counties. 


The General Assembly has also told NCDHHS to issue a request for proposals to procure a single, statewide children and families (CAF) specialty plan, to be implemented on Dec. 1. 


Ward said the transition to Trillium has been seamless so far. He said, "We had things a little out of sequence because we didn't have the regional advisory boards when we needed to appoint the main governing board." 


Allen has been critical of the rollout of NCDHHS' secretarial directive, which changed Sandhills' original plan to merge only with Eastpointe. He said, "The concern is, going forward, the counties have always been involved in behavioral and mental health. It's been a tradition and it's worked out well at the local level where those services are needed. 


β€œThe concern at the state level is that the counties are going to lose that interest. The sheriff's office handles a lot of those behavioral issues. Department of Social Services, EMS, a lot of our departments. When things don't go well, the counties are going to be the safety net." 


Board of Commissioners Chairman Darrell Frye said he hopes that Randolph County will not get lost in the larger catchment area, but he appreciated that Ward remains involved. "We're glad you're still with us," he said.