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April 25, 2008
Secretary Benton Calls For LME Mergers or Partnerships
On April 17, 2008 N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton unveiled his 2008-09 proposals to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health.
Benton suggests -- due to limited resources (financial and human resources), duplications of functions, and confusion for consumers trying to navigate 25 different LME systems -- that mental health local management entities (LMEs) should “voluntarily merge or collaborate through a partnership agreement with the goal of creating no more than three regional entities in one of the state’s three state facility catchment areas.” The voluntary consolidation of mental health administrative functions would result in a total of nine regional entities.
Benton proposes that combining the 25 LMEs would improve consistency of services across the state, reduce the barriers to providers delivering services, save money and allow personnel to be more effectively utilized. For LMEs across the state that have experienced sweeping system changes for more than seven years, this would offer an alternative to making additional mandated state-wide changes in governance.
Central to Secretary Benton’s recommendations was a “Proposal for Voluntary Regionalization of Local Management Entities” based on the recent Mercer audit of LME performance. This audit rated Mecklenburg County’s LME in the Tier One category, one of two LME’s topping the state in performance.
Mecklenburg County’s LME has already entered into a partnership with Guilford and Smoky Mountain LMEs to form the North Carolina Behavioral Health Partnership (NCBHP). Secretary Benton’s proposal appears to mirror closely the concept and work already completed by NCBHP. At its April 15 meeting, Board members were provided an update on that partnership by Area Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett.
The Mental Health Legislative Oversight Committee was reluctant to fully endorse Secretary Benton’s proposal due to tight timeframes for implementation identified by the Secretary. However, budget shortfalls and the federal withholding of Medicaid funds may make this plan more appealing as the short legislative session begins.
Board members will receive further information about the NCBHP initiative when the Interlocal Agreement is provided for Board consideration. For additional details, please contact Grayce Crockett at (704) 336-8638 or via email.
- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager

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