Mastering the Raleigh Sidestep

While it may not be enough to earn an invite to Dancing With The Stars, Assistant DHHS Secretary Beth Melcher did show her mastery of the Raleigh Sidestep last week in answering a question on consumer inclusion from a member of the Health & Human Services Legislative Oversight Committee.

Asked by Sen. Tommy Tucker, R, District 35, if there were a fair number of people on the “task force” reviewing the Department’s strategic plan for waiver implementation, Melcher replied:

“I wish I knew of a perfect system to get everybody’s input. I don’t  know of anyone who’s discovered that.” DHHS needs to develop multiple ways of getting input, she said, adding there is indeed a mechanism in place for receiving input moving forward as waivers are implemented and that conversations are ongoing on the best folks to serve and the best way to get input.

“It’s certainly our intent to try and get a broad range of input and opinion,” Melcher said, then described the challenge of getting input from individual service recipients through customer surveys and town hall meetings. And while that particular input has nothing to do with the strategic plan, it makes it sound like much is being done.

So, translating for those who don’t speak Raleighese, Melcher’s answer to Senator Tucker’s question was “No.” (Audio of her response here.)

The task force to which Tucker referred is the External Advisory Team. Melcher singled the group out as one of the stakeholder groups to which DHHS turned for input into “Partnering for Success: Strategic Plan for Statewide Implementation of the 1915(b)/(c) Medicaid Waiver.”

Since the External Advisory Team clearly falls under provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Law that require any group acting in a legislative, policy-making, or advisory function to give public notice of its meetings and to maintain minutes, you’d expect to find such notices and minutes on the DHHS website. But a search for the phrase External Advisory Team from July 1 to present yields just four results, one referring to the team’s role in the rulemaking process, one from State CFAC minutes from 2006 and two links to the draft strategic plan itself, saying that the External Advisory Team provided input. Talk about circuitous.

A Google search for the same term and time period nets 39 results with just four from North Carolina: two referring to the team’s role in the rule making process and two from the North Carolina Substance Abuse Providers Association, both brief and neither germane to the specific review of the strategic plan.

So, revising Tom Cruise’ famous line from the movie Jerry McGuire, I say “Show me the minutes.” Heck, just show me anything.

There’s no doubt the group does exist and did meet  and it may well have minutes that have yet to make it to the web. It may also be that there are none. From a brief review of the 35-plus participants, however, it’s hard to spot any mental health consumers. More in subsequent issues.

Also apparently called the Waiver Leadership Team, a search on the DHHS website for that phrase for the same period yields three results, although all three reference Communication Bulletin 106 from 2009.  A Google search for the same term and time period returns six results, three of them concerning the Wake County body by the same name, two again referring to 2009, and the final the minutes of the July 14 State CFAC, in which the need for input into the waiver implementation strategic plan was actually discussed.

According to Melcher in her comments to the LOC,  DHHS took the lead in developing the strategic plan because they “wanted people to have the opportunity to provide input at the very beginning.” While that makes DHHS sound quite noble, it’s really just another way of saying the General Assembly via House Bill 916 told them to.

David Cornwell
Executive Director
North Carolina Mental Hope


  1. What stands out for me most in this article is the name Beth Melcher. Why is her name always surrounded by controversy? Oh, probably because she is creating it. It worries me that Beth has anything to do with the Medicaid Waiver process at all. Case in point. Onslow Carteret Behavioral Healthcare and Southeastern recently received approval as a Medicaid Waiver joint LME. How can this be? They failed the first round of application submissions because they did not meet the minimum requirements, to include the medicaid eligible population. So, they resubmit the application and pass? Hmm, makes me a little suspicious that the medicaid eligible numbers magically appeared? OCBHS nad Southeastern are ranked in the bottom of the lower half of LME’s for effectiveness. Why would the State want that? Sounds just stupid to me.

    How about Mark Besen’s (Director of OCBHS) relationship with Beth Melcher (and Recovery Innovations)? I wonder if that relationship had ANYTHING to do with the waiver getting “pushed through”? It would appear, and Mark boasts, it was a politically guided by his connections. But, then again, Beth Melcher is involved thus, no one should be surprised. Beth and Mark’s connection with Recovery Innovations ( a local provider) is obvious. Moreover, providers who deal with Recovery Innovations are completely dissatisfied. Recovery Innovations markets a good game but they do not offer what they report they do.

    In summary, there is a whole lot of research to uncover on Beth Melcher and her agenda. It is not about providing consumers with care or available options. It is about streamlining funding to her buddies and pals, and scratching backs in the interest of furthering her own career.

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