• Providers say mental health system denied patients' treatment

    By: Allison Latos

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There are big concerns for people in Mecklenburg County battling mental illness.

    One Charlotte treatment center director told Channel 9 he's being flooded with crisis calls after the county-run system called MeckLINK, denied patients' treatment.

    Mark Brown with Melange Health Solutions has been treating people with mental illness in Mecklenburg County for more than 10 years.

    "For adult clients, we see a lot of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," said Brown.

    Since the county launched MeckLINK, the mental health Medicaid managed-cared organization, he said half of his patients with the most severe disorders have been denied treatment.

    "I'm frustrated and I'm concerned. When you're getting 50 calls for crisis from patients who were discharged and told they were basically cured, that's frustrating," he said.

    Fewer Medicaid patients county-wide are receiving intensive in-home treatment since MeckLINK went live in March, from 1,518 people to 689 in June.

    Those numbers concern Commission Chair Pat Cotham.

    "That worries me about the safety of their families and their neighbors," said Cotham. "We work for them too even if they have mental illness."

    MeckLINK Director Phillip Endress said the county only gets $15 million a month from the state and MeckLINK must decide how best to spend it on the roughly 6,000 Medicaid patients monthly.

    "We have to review everybody to determine whether there is medical necessities for the service being provided," he said.

    Now Cotham and other commissioners are raising questions about MeckLINKs use of taxpayer money.

    "That's not part of the plan and we didn't know about it," said Cotham.

    Endress argues they're allowed.

    "We're playing by the same rules as a county department that everyone else is playing by," said Endress.

    But, mental health advocates told Channel 9 the people who aren't cared for could end up in the hospital or jail, all at taxpayers' expense.

    A new state law will change control of MeckLINK from the county to a separate authority next year.

    Cotham is also worried if the county has reported inaccurate expenses, they may not be able to get that money back from the state.


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