• 73°

ECBH director: Merger has occurred smoothly

By Staff
Expects crisis center in Beaufort County to open in near future
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
The merger of nine counties, including Beaufort County, to provide mental health-related services in those counties has gone smoothly, according to Roy Wilson, director of East Carolina Behavioral Health.
That was Wilson’s message to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday. East Carolina Behavioral Health is the local management entity that manages mental health services provided by other entities. In addition to Beaufort County, it serves Pitt, Craven, Bertie, Northampton, Gates, Jones, Pamlico and Hertford counties.
Those counties merged at the beginning of this fiscal year, which began July 1. Beaufort County chose to align itself with East Carolina Behavioral Health.
Tideland Mental Health used to provide mental-health services in Beaufort County. It no longer exists.
East Carolina Behavioral Health doesn’t provide direct services. It manages service providers.
After the merger occurred, Wilson said, East Carolina Behavioral Health’s clinical staff audited service providers to determine if they were meeting standards and following guidelines related to their providing mental health-related services, Wilson said. The audits determined some providers needed to take corrective measures before they would be allowed to resume providing services through the program, Wilson said.
Wilson said ECBH continues to strive to reduce costs and increase the quality of care related to providing mental health-related services.
Because the state wants to reduce such costs, Wilson said, he fears the state will decided to increase the size of areas served by local management entities, known as LMEs, like East Carolina Behavioral Health, resulting in fewer LMEs that cover larger areas.
Wilson told commissioners the crisis center in Beaufort County is close to opening. He did not say when it would open.
In a brief interview Wednesday, County Manager Paul Spruill said the county is pleased with the transition from Tideland Mental Health to East Carolina Behavioral Health. Spruill said some work remains to be done to complete the transition, namely getting the Beaufort County crisis center up and running.
Spruill said he believes the county, Beaufort County Hospital and East Carolina Behavioral Health are doing a good job when it comes to providing outpatient care to people who require such care.
Joy Futrell, ECBH’s finance officer, told commissioners the LME is funded by several sources, including appropriations from each of the counties it serves, the state and programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Each county decides how much money it wants to allocate, with that allocation spent to provide services in that county, she said.
East Carolina Behavioral Health has a $37.65 million budget for the current fiscal year. Beaufort County’s allocation for this fiscal year is $173,599.
Under questioning by Commissioner Hood Richardson, Futrell explained that $5.7 million of the LME’s budget for this fiscal year is for salaries, employee benefits and some costs related to operating its facilities. Futrell also explained the LME receives $23 million in service delivery funds, which helps pay for providing services to its indigent clients. If those funds run out, as they have done in previous years, East Carolina Behavioral Health may dip into the counties’ allocations to meet clients’ needs, Futrell said.
Combined, the nine counties allocated $1.4 million to East Carolina Behavioral Health this fiscal year.