Letter writer: Our community deserves a choice in mental health providers

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I am writing to bring attention to a recent decision by Smoky Mountain [LME/MCO] to decrease the number of agencies that can provide various mental health services to those in need, including intensive in-home services (for children at risk of out-of-home placement) and Assertive Community Treatment Team services (for adults with severe and persistent mental illness).

Smoky Mountain [LME/MCO] has decided to allow just four agencies to offer any enhanced mental health service to the people of Buncombe County and have stated that they are not going to renew the contracts of the various other agencies currently providing these services after December of 2015. They admit that this is not about the quality of services that these agencies are providing.

This change is going to radically alter the availability of a number of services in Buncombe County. Children with serious behavioral issues will have to wait longer to receive services, increasing the likelihood that they will end up hospitalized, incarcerated or in foster care (which is not just unfortunate for the family and child, but for taxpayers also!).

Adults with severe and persistent mental illness (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) will have to wait longer for treatment.

As a mental health practitioner, I understand how necessary these services are to many individuals with mental illness. Without these services, they may no longer be able to hold a job, have easy access to their necessary medications, maintain housing, etc. Everyone deserves access to needed health services, including mental health services.

If you disagree with this decision, please contact Smoky Mountain Center at 1-888-757-5726 or customer.services@smokymountaincenter.com.

— Whitney Hibbitts


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One thought on “Letter writer: Our community deserves a choice in mental health providers

  1. Grant Millin

    Here’s my email, Whitney. Thanks for sharing your concerns.

    Subj: Impact of Smoky Mountain Center changes not adequately relayed to public

    Hi SMC,

    The LME/MCO approach to mental health is new enough that no one has a performance baseline to compare the current state program cuts recently announced by Smoky Mountain Center to the past (Blue Ridge Mental Health at optimum performance , or to future outcomes. There seems to be no national institute that might offer an external perspective on these changes. It’s all basically what Smoky Mountain Center says goes, and everyone else is ‘disgruntled’.

    Of course it is conceivable to identify the world’s best national healthcare systems (impact on average citizen) which no doubt have the best mental healthcare. Then North Carolina’s mental healthcare can be compared against that benchmark, and so to the performance of Smoky Mountain Center.

    Along with running for Asheville city council, I am proposing a WNC Public Advocate Office that would help ameliorate these kinds of challenges.

    Best wishes,

    Grant Millin, Innovation Strategist and Owner
    InnovoGraph LLC – Strategic Innovation Services and Management Consulting

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