NC Managed Care Organizations Announce Coalition

MCO leaders identify collaboration as key to responding to challenges and opportunities of Medicaid reform Nov. 15, 2017 – Leaders of three North Carolina managed care organizations (MCOs) announced a new partnership to leverage strengths and expertise in response to Medicaid reform. The coalition will unite the efforts of three high-performing MCOs – Vaya Health, Trillium Health Resources and Alliance Behavioral Healthcare – to address significant, statewide health policy issues that impact North Carolinians across the state. The coalition is in full alignment with the Medicaid Reform plan proposed by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

The joint effort is not a merger or mandated consolidation. Each of the MCOs will continue to operate in their respective counties, keeping their names, board structure and staffing, in addition to working together as part of the coalition to leverage resources, experience and expertise on a statewide level. MCO leaders identify the collaboration as the most effective way to demonstrate to NC DHHS, the General Assembly and potential commercial healthcare partners that MCOs can successfully implement Medicaid Transformation in a way that advances high-quality care, improves population health, engages and supports providers and establishes a sustainable program with predictable costs (a four-prong approach known as the Quadruple Aim).

Through the formation of the coalition, the MCOs seek to have a stronger voice in preserving the role of the public behavioral healthcare system in Medicaid Transformation, helping ensure continued stability and continuity of care for the people they serve. The potential to establish a combined statewide provider network will enhance access to a diverse range of services and supports for people in both urban and rural areas of the state.

“The public MCO system has unique experience and expertise in addressing the behavioral health needs of North Carolinians,” said Brian Ingraham, Vaya Health CEO. “This coalition provides an opportunity to build on our track record of success and expand our contribution to the health of the people we serve.”

“Trillium Health Resources believes that this closer collaboration with our colleagues at Alliance and Vaya will allow us to better serve our members, regardless of where they live in NC, and will promote a stable environment for our provider partners,” said Leza Wainwright, Trillium Health Resources CEO.

“Alliance has a proven history of effectively serving individuals with multiple and complex needs through evidence-based practices, community partnerships and a focus on the social determinants of health – the environmental factors that impact peoples’ health and quality of life,” said Rob Robinson, Alliance CEO. “We are uniquely positioned to advance innovative, whole-person care as North Carolina transforms its Medicaid program, and this coalition will strengthen our ability to positively impact service delivery on a statewide basis.”

The formation of the coalition does not affect the services and supports of any members of Vaya, Trillium and Alliance Medicaid health plans. Members who have questions should contact their MCO through the respective Access to Care lines.

About the Coalition
Vaya Health, Trillium Health Resources, and Alliance Behavioral Healthcare are local management entity/ managed care organizations (LME/MCOs) responsible for managing publicly-funded behavioral health and IDD services in three catchment areas that collectively span the State of North Carolina from the mountains to the sea. Together, they are responsible for managing more than $1.375 billion in public funds and 610,000 Medicaid covered lives across 52 counties. More information about the coalition can be found at www.AdvancingNCWholeHealth.org.

About Alliance Behavioral Healthcare
Alliance Behavioral Healthcare is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million. Alliance operates an Access and Information Center available 24/7 at (800) 510-9132. Learn more at www.AllianceBHC.org.

About Trillium Health Resources
Trillium Health Resources is a leading specialty care manager (LME/MCO) for individuals with substance use, mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities in 25 counties in eastern North Carolina. Trillium’s mission is to transform the lives of people in need by providing them with ready access to quality care. We take a person-centered approach to health and wellbeing, coordinating care across multiple systems to achieve improved health outcomes, quality of care and efficient use of resources. Trillium is investing in innovation to meet the unique needs of the individuals and communities we serve, and remains focused on delivering the right services, in the right amount, at the right time. For more information, visit www.TrilliumHealthResources.org.

About Vaya Health
Based in Asheville, N.C., Vaya Health manages public funds for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual or developmental disability services in 23 western North Carolina counties: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. Access to care and crisis assistance are available 24/7 at 1-800-849-6127. Learn more at www.VayaHealth.com.

Alliance Trains Raleigh PD to Address Behavioral Illness

Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has now trained every employee of the Raleigh Police Department – officers as well as non-sworn employees – in techniques that help them recognize and respond appropriately to people in behavioral health crisis.

Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million.

In total, 407 police officers have received either Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) or Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, or both. 319 received CIT training, which provides the skills necessary to recognize and respond appropriately to individuals in behavioral health crisis. They learned to de-escalate dangerous situations and refer individuals, when appropriate, to treatment instead of emergency departments or jail. 28 of those officers received specialized training in how to respond to military veterans in crisis. Almost 100 other Raleigh PD employees have received Mental Health First Aid training, an eight-hour, evidence-based curriculum that teaches a five-step action plan to identify when someone might be struggling with a mental health or substance use problem, and to reach out and offer appropriate support until professional treatment is secured or the crisis resolves.

“CIT is proven to improve the safety of both officers and citizens and to significantly reduce the number of re-arrests of people with a mental illness,” said Ann Oshel, head of Community Relations for Alliance. “And MHFA is for everyone – the skills taught in these trainings have tremendous value for our communities.”

All told, Alliance has provided CIT training to almost 3000 police officers, firefighters, EMS paramedics and other emergency responders and 911 telecommunicators throughout its four-county coverage area, and over 3500 people from all walks of life have received Mental Health First Aid training from Alliance, preparing them to be ready when needed. To register for an MHFA training, use the calendar at AllianceBHC.org or to schedule a training for your office or group, contact the Alliance Access and Information Center at (800) 510-9132.

New Invitation for Bids Issued by Alliance

Invitation for Bids #18-002– Construction Services at Recovery Response Center (RRC), 309 Crutchfield Street in Durham, NC has been posted to the Alliance website.

Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center Opens in Durham

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has developed and opened a new service in Durham to help people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Much like the physical health urgent care facilities that are becoming common in our communities, a behavioral health urgent care center provides rapid assessment of an individual’s situation, routine intervention, and referrals for follow up services.

The goal of behavioral health urgent care centers is to provide a community-based option to stabilize individuals experiencing behavioral health crises in a way that reduces unnecessary trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations, and even incarcerations.

This service targets people living in Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties who have Medicaid or no insurance. Individuals with private insurance and those who do not qualify for other public funding will pay an out-of-pocket fee.

The new center in Durham, located at 2670 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, is open for adults and children Monday-Thursday from 8:00am-7:00pm, on Fridays from 8:00am-3:00pm and on Saturday from 9:00am-noon. It is operated by Carolina Outreach, a member of the Alliance Provider Network that also offers a variety of other behavioral health services at locations across the state.

“The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center adds a critical component to the behavioral health service continuum in the Triangle region,” said Tim Brooks, Director at Carolina Outreach. “It allows us to address mental health and substance use disorder needs that fall in the considerable gap between routine office visits and emergencies that require facility or hospital-based care. I believe this program will help pave the way for more humane, effective and efficient care.”

Visitors to the Urgent Care Center have access to psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and other clinical staff in a safe, respectful environment. In addition to a screening of any behavioral health issues that are present, they receive a medical screening, access to appropriate medications, and referrals to community-based providers and other resources for follow up care.

“Alliance is committed to giving people access to services when they need it,” said Dr. Beth Melcher, Alliance Executive Vice President for Care Management. “Behavioral health urgent care is an innovative way to be responsive to their needs and to address not just behavioral health crises, but also the overall well-being and support needs of the individual.”

Behavioral health urgent care is well-suited for someone who has experienced a recent trauma and needs help managing thoughts and feelings and planning next steps, or someone who has been barred from attending school until they receive a psychological assessment. It can help people who have stopped receiving behavioral health services and want to re-engage in treatment immediately, supply a medication bridge until an appointment for routine care can be made, or provide assistance administering an injectable medication.

This level of care is not suited for drug/alcohol detoxification, people with urgent medical needs, or when it is clear that hospitalization is required. In those cases, a hospital or one of Alliance’s Crisis and Assessment Centers is more appropriate. Locations of these facilities are available on the Alliance website at AllianceBHC.org. Alliance also provides an Access and Information Line where clinical staff is available 24/7 by calling (800) 510-9132.

Alliance Launches Recovery University

Alliance has launched Recovery University, a new online training gateway that allows members of the Provider Network and other community stakeholders to register for Alliance’s external trainings, including online and in-person classroom-based trainings. This curriculum is based on Alliance’s strong commitment to the concepts of recovery and self-determination. Learn more about Recovery University or access the new online training gateway.

Alliance Announces New Clinical Leadership

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has named two additions to the leadership of its Care Management Division. Dr. Beth Melcher, who has been serving as interim Executive Vice President for Clinical Operations for the past several months, has assumed that position on a permanent basis, and Dr. Katherine Hobbs Knutson is Alliance’s new Chief Medical Officer.

Before assuming her interim role, Dr. Melcher was Chief of Network Development and Evaluation at Alliance. Prior to coming to Alliance she served as Assistant Secretary for MH/DD/SA Services Development and then Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Services for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Her distinguished career also includes stints as President/CEO of Recovery Innovations North Carolina, Clinical Director for The Durham Center, and Executive Director of NAMI North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Hobbs Knutson comes to Alliance from the Duke University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, where she practiced in emergency and outpatient settings. She is an adult and child psychiatrist with extensive clinical experience in underserved community settings treating children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders that are significantly impacted by the social determinants of health.  Dr. Hobbs Knutson also has conducted health services research focused on innovative state programs to improve identification of and access to care for youth with behavioral health disorders.

“Based on my clinical and research experiences, I believe that prevention of and early targeted intervention for pediatric mental health problems would substantially improve health outcomes and lower costs across the multiple public systems serving children,” she said. “At Alliance I plan to use my roles as a clinician and administrator to fuel these changes.”

Prior to her position at Duke, Dr. Hobbs Knutson was the Director of Community Psychiatry at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, and in 2014 served as Associate Medical Director for Psychiatry for the Massachusetts state Medicaid program. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, where she received the George C. Thrasher Jr. Award for outstanding performance and ability in psychiatry.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Melcher and Dr. Hobbs Knutson I have no doubt that Alliance will only enhance its reputation for clinical excellence in the management of behavioral healthcare in North Carolina,” said Alliance CEO Rob Robinson. “Their experience and expertise are critical to our commitment to population health management to address health and well-being among the people we serve, as we shift toward proactive approaches for promoting prevention, wellness, early identification and tailored intervention programs.”

Alliance Takes National Awards for Documentary

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare’s BECOMING Initiative has won two national Excellence in Community Communication and Outreach (ECCO) Awards for its short-form documentary called Breaking the Cycle, the story of the challenges and successes of some of the young people served by BECOMING. It can be accessed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dctUS8BfMB0&t=40s.

Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million.

BECOMING was a six-year, SAMHSA-funded program that concluded in October of 2016. It targeted high-risk 16-21 year olds in Durham County who had mental health challenges and were disconnected from services and supports that would normally assist them in transitioning to adulthood. Through partnerships within the community, BECOMING connected these youth with literacy support services, coordination of clinical care, employment services, positive recreational opportunities and leadership training, with a goal of helping make these transitions more successful. By the time the grant ended the program had served over 300 young people.

The awards for Breaking the Cycle were presented during a live webcast earlier this month in a competition that included over 60 entries from across the country. The ECCO (Excellence in Community Communication and Outreach) Recognition Program is sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program.

The Recognition Program showcases and celebrates outstanding achievements in social marketing and communications by system of care grantees. It showcases and celebrates the talents, strengths and successes of community-based programs that incorporate systems of care for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families.

These most recent awards are part of seven national awards captured by BECOMING for communications and outreach during the six-year run of the program, including the prestigious People’s Choice Award in 2015.

Public Input Sought on DHHS Design for Medicaid Managed Care

The Department of Health and Human Services has released a detailed proposed program design for transforming the state Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs to managed care. DHHS issued its proposed program design to ensure stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on managed care specifics. Comments are being accepted through Sept. 8, 2017. Learn more.

Alliance Teams with CASA to Increase Affordable Housing

(Durham, NC) – Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has continued its history of working collaboratively with its public, private and non-profit partners to increase affordable housing capacity for people with mental health issues by providing $250,000 in financing to a local non-profit developer.

Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly-funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million, and is the first MCO in the state to contribute funds to the purchase of property for people living with mental health challenges.

Alliance knows that investing in supportive housing promotes an improved quality of life and better treatment outcomes for these individuals. This investment goes beyond simply paying someone’s rent – it takes a holistic view ranging from honoring where someone chooses to live, to maintaining their housing after rental assistance ends. Like other “social determinants of health” – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – safe, stable housing provides a critical foundation for recovery.

“Our investment recognizes the importance of creating greater access to permanent, affordable housing for people with mental health conditions,” said Ann Oshel, head of Community Relations at Alliance. “This helps make it possible for a group of people who are often vulnerable to homelessness to live successfully in their communities.”

The contribution was made to CASA, a non-profit housing developer and property manager, in support of its largest acquisition of housing units to date – 44 units at Underwood Apartments on Underwood Avenue and the 35-unit Maplewood Apartments on West Chapel Hill Road, both in Durham. Thirteen of the apartments will be reserved for individuals receiving services managed by Alliance, with an additional eight units reserved for veterans. CASA plans to make improvements at both properties, including fencing, landscaping, parking lot repairs, and replacement of aging staircases and balconies. This brings CASA’s inventory of affordable apartment homes to 490 units in Durham, Wake and Orange counties.
The apartments will primarily target people earning 50 percent of the area median income or less, which is $25,700 for one person. Leases for current tenants will be honored, and measures are in place to ensure that the units remain affordable over time.

“These homes will continue to serve Durham renters with limited incomes for many more years to come,” said CASA CEO Debra King. “This acquisition allows us to preserve the Underwood and Maplewood apartments as affordable rental housing in Durham and gives the current tenants assurance that their rent will remain affordable.”

Others partnering with Alliance and CASA in the purchase of these 79 apartments include North State Bank, BB&T, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, and the City of Durham.

In addition to this investment, in 2016 Alliance provided over $682,000 in rental assistance to 425 individuals and families, moving them out of homelessness and helping them avoid eviction. Individuals who are receiving services managed by Alliance can access housing assistance through their provider.