A meeting Tuesday (today) should result in plans for spending $1.4 million budgeted by the legislature to establish a facility-based crisis (FBC) center, said Keith Elmore, chairman of the Wilkes County commissioners.
The mental health funds will be lost if plans for spending it aren’t submitted to the state by April 1, said Elmore, speaking at a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting Friday. “I don’t think there will be time for a follow-up meeting.”
A committee consisting of representatives of Vaya Health, Daymark Recovery Services Inc., Synergy Recovery Inc. and county government meets at noon today in the commissioners’ room of the County Office Building in Wilkesboro to address the issue.
Vaya is one of the state’s seven local management entity-managed care organizations (LME-MCOs). Entities like Daymark and Synergy provide behavioral health care through contracts with Vaya.
EDC board member Jim Smoak responded to Elmore in the EDC meeting, saying in-patient psychiatric care is very costly and is a losing proposition for providers. “Maybe you get it built, but who is going to run it and where will the money come from to operate it because those things can eat money,” said Smoak.
County Manager John Yates said the latest plan for the $1.4 million is to add two crisis care beds to the current 14 crisis care beds at the Synergy facility on Peace Street, in North Wilkesboro. The county-owned building is known as the “detox center.”
Yates said it also included establishing a clinic operated by Daymark on the top floor of the building. He said law enforcement would take people with involuntary commitment orders to this new Daymark clinic instead of the current practice of taking them to Wilkes Medical Center. “That would take the pressure off the hospital.”
The patients would be transferred to Synergy on the lower floor if they could be treated there or transferred elsewhere if necessary, he said.
Elmore said it’s also extremely expensive to hold involuntary commitment patients at Wilkes Medical Center, sometimes for days, waiting for space in a suitable facility to become available. Smoak agreed.
Smoak asked Elmore if county government could contribute to the cost of the expanded care at the Synergy building, considering the savings to the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office.
Elmore didn’t reply, but Yates said money supposedly is available from the state to help. Elmore stated after the meeting that county government already appropriates over $250,000 a year to Vaya for behavioral health care services in Wilkes.
Legislation appropriating the $1.4 million last year said these funds would be used to construct an FBC center. At that time, Vaya officials proposed that it be built as a 16-bed addition to the Daymark building at West Park.
After Vaya later said the LME-MCO couldn’t afford to operate another 16-bed FBC center due to state funding cuts, county government, Vaya and Daymark released a report this fall that proposed using the $1.4 million to expand Daymark’s current walk-in clinic to 24/7 as a more affordable and in some ways more effective alternative to an FBC center.
Shirley Randleman of Wilkesboro, credited with securing legislation with the $1.4 million in her last Senate term, said in a Feb. 7 meeting that the bill specifically stated it was non-recurring funding and only for building an FBC center in Wilkes. She said other plans would cause loss of the funds.
Elmore said Friday that Sen. Deanna Ballard of Blowing Rock, who represents Wilkes, “is ready to help get that money ($1.4 million) to us. She’s waiting on us to submit a plan.”
Synergy Director Carl Spake said on Feb. 7 that the Synergy facility is known as “the detox center” so few people realize it’s an FBC center. Although Synergy has inpatient beds, it doesn’t offer the array of services available at other FBC centers.
Thursday night, the county commissioners rescinded a resolution renewing the annual lease of the building on Peace Street to Synergy for its detox and crisis stabilization services. Commissioners had approved the resolution at their Feb. 19 meeting.
County Attorney Tony Triplett said that considering the ongoing conversation between county, Vaya, Synergy and Daymark officials about how to use the $1.4 million, the county should delay signing the lease. Triplett said Spake and his attorney, Bruce Kaplan of Boone, agreed.
Synergy is still leasing the building and operating there.