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By Erin Smith

The Eastpointe Board of Directors met at Mount Olive College on Tuesday evening and heard an update from CEO Sarah Stroud regarding the financial impact of the disengagement of Nash County and the potential disengagement of Columbus County.

Stroud said she and former Board of Directors President Rob Boyette traveled to Columbus County on Monday and made a presentation to the Columbus County Board of Commissioners regarding the services provided for their county by Eastpointe. She said Eastpointe has paid $16 million in claims for Columbus County.

“We talked about their investment,” said Stroud. Columbus County reduced their share to Eastpointe to $40,000. Columbus County has sent a written letter to the NC Health and Human Services Director Mandy Cohen seeking to be allowed to disengage from Eastpointe and join Trillium.

Stroud said Eastpointe was originally established as a 12 county MCO/LME. With the departure of Nash and Columbus counties, the expenses for services provided will be now be shared among the 10 remaining counties.

Stroud told the Eastpointe Board that being founded as a 12 county MCO/LME was how the company built its efficiencies. The resources to operate the prepaid inpatient health plan was shared among those 12 counties, said Stroud.

“If we look at the departure of Nash and the potential departure of Columbus then it begins to affect our budget as we have heard from Catherine (Dalton) tonight as we have already done a $3.3 million reduction in our budget,” said Stroud.

She explained the reduced funds will be made up with funds from the company’s fund balance. Stroud said she was not seeking any type of action or direction from the board on Tuesday, but was offering the scenario as a way for the board to begin thinking about options.

“If Columbus leaves, I don’t have the exact numbers with me, I am extrapolating on what we would need based on Nash, I think it would put us up around probably close to $5 million total in fund balance reduction just to maintain our activity,” said Stroud.

Stroud told the board there are two choices: continue to pull the difference from the fund balance until the fund balance is depleted or the board can look at making adjustments through staff reduction. “If we look at doing staff reduction not only would it decrease staff but it decreases efficiency because as I have made the point already, we pull from all of our resources to cover our counties,” said Stroud. “The main thing as we move forward is to make sure we don’t do anything that will affect services to our members or our relationship with our providers.”

Stroud told the board that in looking at budget cuts, it would probably affect between 50 to 75 employees, if Columbus County is allowed to disengage. She said Eastpointe has an employee pool of 302 individuals. She estimated Nash County’s disengagement impacted about 45 to 50 positions and the potential disengagement of Columbus County will impact about 20 positions.

“We need as a board and as a group to continue to look at ways to maximize our efficiency and streamline our operations, to make sure that neither members nor providers suffer in the changes that our happening to the configuration of Eastpointe,” said Stroud.

She was asked if the proposed merger with Cardinal takes place would it offset the situation created by the departure of Nash and Columbus counties. Stroud replied that it is not even the same issue because when merger talks began it was to improve efficiency and secure the future for Eastpointe members and providers in the long-term.

President J. W. Simmons said, “One of the things that is happening is that the merger team and the executive team is working aggressively to follow the direction of this board. This board has instructed us to move forward and that is one of the reasons we have extended and moved up the next meeting one week to Sept. 19th. The majority of that meeting will be closed session.”

Stroud also updated the board regarding the sentencing of former Chief Financial Officer Bob Canupp. He was sentenced to 42 months and ordered to pay restitution.

Theresa Edmundson updated the board regarding the passing out of Narcan kits in the counties served by Eastpointe. She said they have recently visited Bladen County and have set a date for a “train the trainer” event to train the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office trainers so they can in turn train their staff.

She told the board in total, throughout all of the 11 counties served by Eastpointe, 614 Narcan kits have been distributed. Each Narcan kit contains two doses.