State tells Western Highlands Network its contract will end in July

On Friday, April 5, the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance notified the Asheville-based Western Highlands Network that it’s terminating its contract, effective July 31. WHN coordinates mental-health, substance-abuse and developmental-disability services in in Madison, Mitchell, Yancey, Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Polk and Rutherford counties.

The announcement notes, “DMA will work closely with Western Highlands Network to move management of the waiver operations with the goal of a smooth and successful transition with no interruption in services. DMA will ensure that the process is as seamless as possible for beneficiaries receiving mental health (MH), substance abuse (SA), and intellectual/developmental disability (IDD) services as well as providers. Additional information will be provided in upcoming Bulletins.” (Full text below)

At press time, it isn’t clear how the move affects care in Western North Carolina, nor how it relates to statewide changes in Medicaid services that are being put forth by Gov. Pat McCrory.

According to a Raleigh News&ObserverUnder the Dome” report on April 4, “McCrory on Wednesday announced a plan that would open the state’s Medicaid business to management by for-profit companies. Each of the state’s 1.5 million Medicaid recipients would sign up for coverage with one of three or more companies. The companies would receive a set amount of money per person, and would be liable for overspending.”

Last year, Xpress reported on WHN’s financial woes, but about nine years ago, former Xpress editor Tracy Rose reported on the reform initiatives that helped create the organization: “As of Jan. 1, 2004, Western Highlands will serve as a ‘local management entity’ (LME), taking over the administrative functions of the Blue Ridge Center and two other regional mental-health programs.” (”The Road to Reform,” Nov. 3, 2003, Xpress]

North Carolina
Medicaid Special Bulletin

N.C. Medicaid Special Bulletin, April 2013

Please note the following new or updated details about the 1915(b)/(c) Medicaid waiver and the changes it will mean to Medicaid providers and beneficiaries in Madison, Mitchell, Yancey, Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Polk, and Rutherford counties.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) will terminate its contract with Western Highlands Network (WHN) for administration of the 1915 (b)/(c) waiver, effective July 31, 2013.

DMA will work closely with Western Highlands Network to move management of the waiver operations with the goal of a smooth and successful transition with no interruption in services. DMA will ensure that the process is as seamless as possible for beneficiaries receiving mental health (MH), substance abuse (SA), and intellectual/developmental disability (IDD) services as well as providers.

Additional information will be provided in upcoming Bulletins.

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

5 thoughts on “State tells Western Highlands Network its contract will end in July

  1. MIke

    An article about the job loss this represents would be good journalism. So would seeing how many people have an even harder time gaining access to services. Did you know it’s kind of hard to negotiate a bureaucracy when you’re homeless, struggling with substance use/mental illness, and physically hurting too? Go figure…

    • Fionata

      I was not aware that the purpose of Medicaid is to provide jobs….silly me

    • AC

      Fionata, Who do you think will provide the services and manage the system? Not acknowledging or comprehending that Mike’s point is, this will very likely have impact on many people and many may lose their jobs. THIS, in turn could impact service delivery, if the transition doesn’t factor things in appropriate.

  2. billy jack

    As a local mental health provider, I take this as good news. WHN has been a discombobulated, inept organization from the get-go. It got worse over time. Good riddance!

  3. Mike

    Health insurance benefits don’t manage themselves. Just like BCBS has to employ people, so does whatever agency is managing any portion of Medicaid funding. WHN dissolution will likely represent a significant net loss of local jobs. If that isn’t the case, great!

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