Board given Smoky Mountain Center update

Wil Petty

March 6, 2014

A representative from the Smoky Mountain Center (SMC) updated members of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners about changes taking place within the organization at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 3.

Among the new changes will be a County Commissioner Advisory Council, according to Shelly Foreman, senior director of planning and public affairs at the SMC.

“I think (this board’s formation) is really important, because of our coverage being larger and larger in area,” Foreman said.

Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe, who serves on finance board for SMC, expressed encouragement, hoping commissioners from Ashe County would participate in these meetings.

“Mental health is something we need to stay on top of,” she said.

SMC, according to its mission, coordinates high quality prevention, treatment and support services for individuals and families in communities with developmental disabilities, mental health or substance abuse needs.

Poe said in 2013 Ashe County had 117 commitments which involved 3,450 hours of police time. So far in 2014, the county has saw 25 commitments.

As of now, SMC serves 23 counties, but under Gov. Pat McCrory’s goal to have the state consolidate to four “Local Management Entity-Managed Care Organizations” (LME-MCOs), Foreman said there are plans to combine with two other organizations to form a 35 county service area.

Foreman said the two centers SMC is in talks with are Centerpoint Human Services which serves four counties including Forsyth (Winston-Salem) and Partners Behavioral Health Management which serves eight counties including Gaston (Gastonia), Catawba (Hickory) and Surry (Mt. Airy) counties.

The consolidation is expected to be completed by 2016 and will be called the “Western Regional Partnership.”

“In the last month, we have final, official approval from the Secretary and Governor,” Foreman said. “Consolidation has been approved.”

Poe mentioned the loss of jobs that go into consolidating these organizations.

“There will be some people losing jobs,” she said. “There will be jobs cut from all over the state.”

While Foreman acknowledged there would be a loss of jobs, she said the cuts would not affect Ashe County or Daymark, a service provider under the SMC.

“For your county, the people that won’t be cut are the people which serve everyday,” Foreman said. “For your community, things will go on as they have gone on.”

Foreman also emphasized that despite expansion, SMC continues to have a strong presence within Ashe County.

“We have staff that work with many of your social agencies and organizations,” she said. “We have people with boots on the ground everyday here in Ashe County.”

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.