The following op-ed piece was authored by all seven North Carolina LME/MCOs and is being submitted to various publications across the state.
Like nothing before it, COVID-19 threatened access to behavioral healthcare. It led many people to put off or cancel necessary care. It created grave challenges for many healthcare professionals who provide that care to individuals who receive mental health, intellectual/developmental disability (IDD), and substance use disorder (SUD) services. The negative health impacts of this pandemic will extend far beyond the immediate effects of the virus, particularly for those who are either uninsured or on Medicaid and have social and environmental factors impacting their overall health.
Aggressive action was needed to sustain our state’s behavioral health and IDD system so that these individuals have uninterrupted access to care throughout the COVID emergency and beyond. Thanks to the support of the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor Cooper, and the NC Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina’s Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs) have been able to meet this challenge by sustaining and adapting the availability of local services and supports across our state.
North Carolina’s seven LME/MCOs are responsible for managing Medicaid and other public behavioral health and IDD funds for millions of North Carolinians in all 100 counties who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid. Working closely with our behavioral health providers, the LME/MCOs have invested more than $150 million over the last six months to help our members, families, and communities weather the pandemic and prepare for challenges in the months and years ahead.
LME/MCOs made significant investments to ensure the availability of local services and supports. We sustained our front-line providers, the healthcare professionals who ensure members receive crucial treatments and care. We made financial stability payments that helped keep their doors open, quickly jump-start telehealth services, and serve individuals virtually.
People can and do recover from mental illness and SUDs–provided they can access the proper treatment. That is why telehealth service delivery has become essential during the pandemic. LME/MCOs utilized funding to purchase mobile phones and data plans for members who did not otherwise have these resources but needed to continue receiving services. By maintaining access to services through telehealth, we can help avoid emergency department visits and unnecessary hospital admissions, thereby relieving pressure on the state’s hospitals and healthcare system. And, we know that positive outcomes for individuals with IDD hinge on promoting stability and helping them stay in their homes and communities of their choice.
We are grateful to North Carolina policymakers for supporting our efforts to maintain access to behavioral health and IDD services for North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic and helping us protect our members, their families, and providers. Because of this support, we have promptly responded to the unique needs of our communities during this crisis. Moreover, we commend our providers for adapting under extraordinary circumstances to serve members and we recognize them for their outstanding courage and dedication to others. The LME/MCOs are committed to continuing to work together with policymakers and providers to successfully serve our members and their families through the pandemic and beyond.
North Carolina’s LME/MCOs:
- Alliance Health
- Cardinal Innovations Healthcare
- Partners Health Management
- Sandhills Center
- Trillium Health Resources
- Vaya Health