Flood Mitigation Program
The County’s Flood Mitigation Program (a component of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services), provides floodplain regulatory enforcement, flood notification and floodplain buyout services along the major creeks throughout the County. In recent years, staff has been working on Floodplain Ordinance revisions to reflect recent Ordinance interpretations, address levees and improve Ordinance administration.
On Monday, April 23, the Charlotte City Council is scheduled to make a final decision on the proposed changes to the City’s Ordinance. This comes after an extensive process of staff collaboration with the Council, the Council’s Environment Committee and residents.
The Environment Committee recommended to the Council an exemption to the community substantial improvement requirement. The exemption applies to buildings that have their lowest finished floor at least one foot above the FEMA Base Flood Elevation. This would allow a property owner of one of these buildings to make unlimited renovations to their building without having to elevate it. City and County staff and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Advisory Committee (SWAC) have expressed concerns over the proposed change to the substantial improvement portion of the Ordinance.
However, City and County staff, the SWAC, and the Environment Committee concur with the other proposed changes to the Ordinance. Services performed by the County outside the policy decisions contained in the Ordinance were also discussed. County staff agreed it is time to initiate a floodplain remapping effort and that notification of floodplain property owners needs to be increased. To that end, County staff has initiated a process to retain an engineering firm to perform the remapping work. Staff also will be asking the Board in the next couple months for the authority for the County Manager to execute a contract for these services. County staff also has included additional funds for remapping in the FY08 base budget request for storm water services. Staff is working with the real estate industry and pursuing other communication avenues to increase awareness of what properties are in the floodplain and the associated restrictions.
Community Support Rate Reduction
On February 7, 2007 N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Carmen Hooker Odom, announced a focused system review on the service called “Community Support.” This service was designed to be provided by a team comprising a qualified professional and a paraprofessional. The state’s focused reviews revealed that the community support providers reviewed were utilizing a higher percentage of paraprofessional staff than anticipated, calling into question the rate of $60 per hour being paid for community support.
On April 12, the N.C. Department of Mental Health and the Division of Medical Assistance announced the rate for community support would be reduced to $40 an hour, and that a new rate would be forthcoming within the next two weeks, based on a cost modeling work group recommendations.
Area Mental Health (AMH) has surveyed all of the Mecklenburg County community support providers to determine their ability to continue to serve consumers given this rate reduction. The majority of the 46 providers who responded indicated they would continue to serve consumers, and that the quality of care would not suffer. Several indicated they will no longer provide the service. We are now beginning to hear that some providers are laying off employees and/or reducing salaries. While providers are not happy about the rate reduction many believe they can reorganize and continue to provide quality services. This change will have an impact on employees at provider agencies, but hopefully will not impact services provided to consumers.
The State is also tightening the requirements for community support. The criteria by which the service is authorized have been tightened, and the requirements for endorsement of providers have been enhanced, to assure quality for consumers. Endorsement is the process whereby the LME certifies that the provider meets a minimum set of requirements to provide the service.
The requirement to have a qualified professional overseeing the care for the consumer has not changed. This should continue to assure that quality services are being provided.
AMH staff is waiting to find out the new rate (which should be announced shortly) prior to taking any action. Another Area’s Program has announced it will supplement the rate up to the $60 an hour through June 30, 2007 for state-funded community support. AMH staff is evaluating whether this would be the best decision for Mecklenburg County, our consumers, and the local providers.
AMH staff has expressed concern about the abrupt nature of the rate reduction. Providers deserve notice prior to being told that their rate will be cut by 33% while the state completes a full rate review. The North Carolina Council of Community Programs (the association that represents LME’s throughout the state) has sent a letter to the Secretary raising several concerns and offering future assistance to assure that a situation like this does not reoccur.
--Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager