By Blake Proctor
At the start of the Commission’s June 21st meeting, Chairman Charles Ray Peterson asked to table discussion of a resolution to disengage from Eastpointe LME/MCO and re-align with Trillium until hearting with Eastpointe LME/MCO could be made about their services.
During the discussion later in the Monday meeting, Eastpointe’s CEO Sarah Stroud, requested that no judgment be made until Eastpointe could present its position. Instead of adjourning at the end of that meeting, the Board recessed until the 23rd.
On Wednesday the 23rd, with Commissioner Ray Britt’s excused absence and Commissioner Dr. Ophelia Munn-Goins attending via Zoom, Chairman Peterson reconvened the meeting at 4 pm. Commissioner Cameron McGill gave the invocation, and County Manager Greg Martin led in the Pledge to the Flag.
Eastpointe LME/MCO operates under the NC Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) auspices as a managed care organization (MCO) working with individuals and families who struggle with substance abuse, mental health, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. They work in partnership with community agencies, licensed independent practitioners, and hospitals to serve the uninsured and Medicaid customers for a ten-county region that includes Bladen County.
The County of Bladen contributes $48,725 annually to the Eastpointe operation, while NCDHHS picks up the remainder of the cost of service provision.
NOTE: “LME” means “Local Management Entity;” “MCO” means “Managed Care Organization.”
Over the last several years, there have been a substantial number of letters, emails, and in-person complaints to the Commission from citizens as well as County public safety personnel regarding the quality of the services Eastpointe has been providing the County leading to this discussion.
Ms. Stroud introduced Robeson County Commissioner Jerry Stevens, Chairman of Eastpointe’s Board of Directors, and Board member Jerry Jones, Greene County Commissioner; she also introduced Community Relations Specialist William Sellers.
She then introduced Victoria Jackson and Kelli Carson, part of the Eastpointe management team, who assisted in providing insight into Eastpointe’s operations.
Ms. Stroud then presented a detailed PowerPoint presentation, showing what Eastpointe is and illustrating the services it provides, both in general and in Bladen County specifically, through both State funding and Medicaid.
A list of benefits Eastpointe provides includes Acute Service assistance; Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for both adults and children; Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services, and what is called In-lieu-of Services.
She further asserted that, of the ten counties covered by Eastpointe, the 1,293 Bladen County members serviced comprised 5% of Eastpointe’s caseload. Last year, they received 981 calls from Bladen members.
Commissioner Munn-Goins had to drop off the meeting at 5 pm.
At 5:17 pm, the Board moved to go into closed session under State Statute 142-318.11 (4) which authorizes closed sessions to discuss both the proposed expansion of Eastpointe’s facilities and their new location(s) within the County. A ten-minute break was first taken, and the Board entered the executive session at 5:27 pm.
The Commission came out of closed session at 5:45 pm, and Chairman Peterson opened a dialogue by stating that he had “given up on Eastpointe,” and “was struggling with their inefficiencies,” especially in regards to the opioid overdoses that have escalated tremendously over the last few years.
He then opened the floor for Commissioner comments.
Commissioner Michael Cogdell, who also has been the County’s representative on the Eastpointe Board for several years, echoed “some of the Chairman’s comments.
He tempered his criticism by stating that the overdose problem had caught everyone by surprise. Cogdell further stated that he believes there is a communications breakdown between the County and Eastpointe.
Commissioner McGill offered that two Volunteer Fire Departments’ Fire Chiefs had approached him to make him aware that public safety personnel need to be given information and training on the use of Narcan in emergency situations.
The Chairman opined that “Commissioners need to be more proactive with our citizens.”
Commissioner Cogdell asked Ms. Stroud if Eastpointe would be more transparent in their relationship with the County; she replied that “Eastpointe will commit to improving communications.”
The Commissioners’ comments were followed by several minutes of general discussion between Commissioners and Eastpointe staff. At 6:15 pm, Chairman Peterson recessed the meeting again to Monday, June 28th. A time for the meeting is yet to be determined.
The County of Bladen will publish the video recording of Wednesday’s meeting on their YouTube Channel.
View the power point presentation presented by Eastpointe on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 here: Bladen County Presentation–2021–from Eastpointe.