This blog originally founded by Blogger who holds a theological degree and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Taught Psychology for 32 years and is now Professor Emeritus. Is a board-certified psychologist and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in his profession. Ministered as a chaplain, and pastored Baptist and Episcopal churches. Publications cover the integration of psychology and theology. Served in the Army, the Merchant Marines and the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why the Mental Health Issue

Someone has asked why we keep devoting so much space to the local mental health issue. I will tell you why. This blog is called the Watauga Conservative. I have always believed that had we taken the Conservative approach and moved mental health from a government entity to a private one, we would not be where we are today. We would undoubtedly have had other problems which some other systems have had that did go private. However, those did not land in the taxpayers’ lap like this one has.

I just want to see the reform done correctly this time, so together with Inquiring Mind, I want to keep the heat on until they get it right.


inquiringmind said...

This issue, because it goes across 5 counties, it has gotten the attention of the State legislature. Changes have already occurred due to this issue. The NC division of records issued record retention/disposition guidelines for LMEs and Providers in October due to this issue.

This should result in changes in audits and the attention paid to them at the Local Government Commission. This should also have an impact on the way all joint-ventures and business activities of the Counties are treated with regard to the County financials.
It is important to keep it in the media to get the needed reform.

inquiringmind said...

Another reason. We just received access to the employee policy manual with the help of the Attorney General's office. And, now we know that a "designated" fund balance, designated to fund retiree health benefits was misappropriated and spent. This carries "personal liability" and not "taxpayer liability".

It would be easy to just drop this and let the scoundrels walk away while we pay the bill. And, even worse, to allow the broken system to continue without much needed reform.

Reader said...

I'd like to say, I appreciate all the hard work you have done on this InquiringMind. You've spent you're time on this and we all need to say thank you for caring.

inquiringmind said...

Among the wage complaints should be the contract between New River and its employees to provide Retiree Health Benefits. Any employee hired before 7/1/2007 is eligible. Any of those employees who have 20+ years of service (service counts pre-7/1/2007 and post 6/30/2007) is vested in this benefit. The policy states: "New River Behavioral HeathCare may at any time discontinue the Retirees Health Care Insurance Benefit 06/30/2007 altogether; provided however, that no such action by the Board shall terminate or reduce benefits which have already vested (20+ service years) with the employee/retiree as of the time the Board takes action."

The Policy goes on to state: "New River Behavioral HealtCare wishes to suport and recognize employees who work long-term for New River Behavioral HealthCare with the continuation, maintenance, and management of the Retirees Health Care Insurance Benefit 06/30/2007 incentive. New River Behavioral HealthCare received from New River Area Board MH/DD/SAS financial support for Retirees Health Care Insurance Benefit 06/30/2007; and may receive any remaining fund balance as of June 30, 2007. The New River Behavioral HealthCare Board will determine, inconsideration of fiscal responsibility, what amount of any fund balance received as of June 30, 2007 will be earmarked for Retirees Health Care Insurance Benefit 06/30/2007."

The "New River Area Board MH/DD/SAS" is the old New Behavioral Health Care that dissolved 6/30/2007 and whose net assets were transferred to the "New River Service Authority d/b/a New River Behavioral HealthCare". As it turns out we don't know how much was contributed to the Retiree Health Care Benefit Plan by the old NRBH; we only know that they gave the new NRBH contributions amounting to over $5 million. We do know; however, that as of 6/30/2007 the old NRBH had a designated fund balance of $438,000 for future employee benefits that was transferred to the new NRBH. However, when the net assets transferred on 7/1/2007 to the new NRBH, it was not transferred as a "designated" fund balance; it was commingled with the "undesignated" fund balance. This is a serious violation. And, now the money is gone. I can't wait to see how the New River Service Authority blames this on Smokey Mountain Center.

At our last count, the liability was $7 million. Add another $2 million now. However, who will be held personally liable for this one. Will it be the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 board members? Will it be on a first in first out basis and be allocated to the earlier board members or will it be on the last out basis and be the responsibility of the latter members? Or, to be fair, will they all be held responsible?