DAVIDSON COUNTY — A decision at its most recent board meeting will allow Davidson County Board of Commissioners to begin disengagement from a company from which the county has received mental health services.

The county began considering a disengagement proposition within the last two months, as Cardinal Innovations — which provided residents care for individuals with mental illness and substance-use disorders, as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities — is no longer an independent entity. Cardinal announced in May that it would merge with Vaya Health, another of North Carolina’s largest managed care organizations.

Davidson County Board of Social Services voted to recommend to commissioners that it begin the disengagement process and partner with Sandhills Center, a publicly-funded LME-MCO (Local Management Entity-Managed Care Organization). Sandhills provides access to services for mental health, substance-use disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“This staff has put a lot of time into this,” County Manager Casey Smith said. “I appreciate all of you [commissioners] who went with us to Sandhills to visit, as well. It was several hours out of our day, we’ve invested a lot of our time, but this was important and I want to underscore that.”

Smith has worked to arrange meetings between DSS board members, commissioners, staff and board members of other organizations to determine Davidson’s next step of action. During the county’s first regular June board meeting, commissioners received an update on its partnering agency and how the decision to disengage weighs heavily on the sustainability of the county’s foster care system.

According to Smith, Union County and Cabarrus County decided months ago to petition the state to disengage from Cardinal, to pick another LME to move to, and that set off a chain reaction within the catchment area, which includes 20 counties. Since that time, other counties decided to move and then the merger further complicated matters.

A nine-step process of disengagement is now set to unfold. According to Smith, contemplation of alternatives to Cardinal became necessary when the progress stated to have been made by representatives from the organization stalled and the group became insolvent, necessitating the merger.

“We have serious issues with foster care proper placements … and then the timeliness of those placements, getting them where they need to be as quickly as possible,” Smith said in his updates to the board last month. “As you are aware, Cardinal came before this board, they’ve come before the DSS board to go through their plan of action, and we’ve worked with them on that plan of action. … I personally stayed in contact with their CEO for a variety of issues related to these children.

“Things did not get better.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.