- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s eight managed-care networks for treating people with mental health and substance abuse needs and providing services for people with developmental disabilities using public funds are becoming more consolidated.

The Department of Health and Human Services laid out a plan Thursday to merge the eight over time into four - two in central North Carolina and one each in the east and west.

Consolidation has been discussed for a while, with a four-region approach first unveiled in late 2013.

Implementation slowed as the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration negotiated a Medicaid overhaul plan and finally agreed upon one last September. That plan envisions proposed medical provider networks and commercial managed-care insurers working with these mental health organizations to handle behavioral treatment and disability services at least well into the next decade.

Both the current mental health organizations, called LME/MCOs, and the proposed Medicaid “prepaid health plans” are based on receiving a set monthly amount from the state for each Medicaid consumer they cover. DHHS presented more details about the Medicaid overhaul and its integration with behavioral health services earlier this month.

In his written announcement, DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer said the consolidation would protect the long-term viability of the organizations and should improve services and consumer accessibility.

“We have determined that further consolidation of LME/MCOs is in the best interests of the state and the beneficiaries of these services,” Brajer wrote. He told the organization leaders that the agency would be seeking consolidation plans and timelines this summer.

The proposed mergers are:

- CenterPoint Human Services and Cardinal Innovations in the north-central region.

- Sandhills Center and Alliance Behavioral Healthcare in the south-central region.

- Eastpointe and Trillium Health Resources in the eastern region.

- Partners Behavioral Health Management and Smoky Mountain LME/MCO in the western region.

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