A growing grass roots effort is fighting a plan that will change who handles Medicaid money for the mentally ill in Mecklenburg County.
MeckLink Behavioral Health Care is a county agency that provides services for the mentally ill, disabled, and those with substance abuse problems. The agency helps link those in need with the right services. About 150,000 people in Mecklenburg County receive Medicaid money for that kind of care.
Now, the Department of Health and Human Services in Raleigh has ordered that those Medicaid funds, totaling more than $200 million, should be handled by a private company based in Kannapolis, rather than MeckLink.
State officials said the decision was made after concerns were raised that MeckLink would not meet a deadline to handle Medicaid payments by Feb. 1. The Department of Health and Human Services secretary decided that a private firm could speed up the process.
MeckLink disputes that claim, and the deadline, which they said should be July first by law.
On Wednesday morning, a large crowd gathered at covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte to make their voices heard on the issue.
Mary Lasco came to the meeting with her son Joseph, who has cerebral palsy and other health issues. She wants to see the level of care he receives to stay the same.
"These children, these adults need to be taken care of no matter what," she said. "My son doesn't know anything in relation to protecting himself, and that population needs assistance 24/7."
Melissa Marshburn is a spokeswoman with MeckLink.
"It's all about the care. It's about people in our community that could end up somewhere they shouldn't be because they aren't receiving services and the right health care that they need," Marshburn said.
On Tuesday, Mecklenburg county commissioners agreed to ask a judge to reverse the decision by DHHS and allow MeckLink to continue to operate and handle Medicaid funds on its own.
The county has hired an additional 140 employees and funded MeckLink with about $3 million. That money could be lost and those jobs cut if the decisions by DHHS is allowed to stand.
On Wednesday morning, volunteers handed out yellow cards to those at the meeting. The cards will be mailed directly to the DHHS in Raleigh, asking for immediate action on the issue. Several people told channel nine they planned to march on Raleigh if the issue was not resolved.