The Smoky Mountain News – Smoky Mountain Center to offload psychiatric services

Smoky Mountain Center has begun the process of transferring its mental health services to private companies in a move that signals the advent of the latest overhaul to the state’s mental health provider network.

Last week, Smoky Mountain Center closed its request for proposals to assume responsibility for the Adult Recovery Unit at Balsam Center, the psychiatric walk-in and outpatient services at Haywood Regional Medical Center, and mobile crisis services in the seven counties of Western North Carolina.

Two local mental health providers — Meridian Behavioral Health and Appalachian Community Services — submitted bids to take over the services, which are supported by approximately $4.5 million of state funding each year. Smoky Mountain Center will award the services to one of the two applicants on March 26.

The transfer of the bundle of psychiatric services generally called Smoky Operated Services will bring the center back in line with the state’s guidelines for local management entities like Smoky Mountain Center that act as payers in the Medicaid system. Under its 2003 reform of mental health care, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services asked regional management entities like Smoky Mountain Center to stop providing services in order to create a clear split between service providers and Medicaid payers.

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