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Smoky Mountain Center Announces Plans to Develop a Management Agreement with Western Highlands Network


April 26, 2013. The Smoky Mountain Center (SMC) Board of Directors approved a plan today to begin work with The Western Highlands Network (WHN) in developing a partnership between the two organizations for overseeing the management of behavioral health and intellectual/ developmental disability services under the 1915(b)/(c) Medicaid Waivers and other functions for Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey Counties.

Smoky Mountain Center logoSmoky Mountain Center, with administrative offices in Sylva, Waynesville, Lenoir and Boone, as well as staff locations throughout a 15-county catchment area, is the Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization (LME/MCO) that manages behavioral health and intellectual/developmental disability services under the 1915(b)/(c) Waivers in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Swain, Watauga, and Wilkes Counties.

While the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos to end the 1915(b)/(c) Medicaid Waivers contract between the NC Division of Medical Assistance and Western Highlands Network came as a surprise to Western Highlands leadership,  and initially created some concerns about the ability to ensure uninterrupted services to Western North Carolina residents with behavioral and intellectual/developmental disabilities, the decision has opened up new opportunities for a stronger and more comprehensive system for the region through a partnership between Smoky Mountain Center and Western Highlands Network.

Rick French, Chair of the SMC Board of Directors, relates that “Smoky Mountain Center is pleased that the Western Highlands Network Board of Directors chose to partner with our organization. The partnership will offer new opportunities for Western North Carolina. We both share a strong history of serving the western and foothills counties of the state and are committed to maintaining a strong local presence in the communities we serve, as well as being responsive to the unique needs of each county in our respective catchment areas.”

Smoky Mountain Center CEO Brian Ingraham states, “Our primary goal is to establish a collaborative process with the Board and staff of Western Highlands Network that will promote open communication and active engagement with consumers, providers and community stakeholders in the transition of managing Medicaid funds for individuals receiving Medicaid behavioral health and intellectual/developmental disability services in the eight counties served by Western Highlands Network.”

Mr. Charles Vines, Chair of the Western Highland Network Board of Directors, relays, “the Western Highlands Network’s Board of Directors believes that working with Smoky Mountain Center is the best approach to assuring that services for individuals with behavioral health issues and intellectual/developmental disabilities continue with no disruption. Once we establish this stability and continuity of care, both organizations can place a broader focus on the future of our partnership in representing the 23 western and foothills counties of the state and the opportunities it brings for enhancing access and quality of services and operational efficiencies”.

Mr. Ingraham concurs and notes, “This partnership offers both organizations the opportunity to prepare for the future. Both organizations have a strong history of engaging consumers and families in identify service needs and what works best in meeting their needs. This engagement has allowed both organizations the ability to work with providers to ensure high quality, accessible services. Our partnerships with health care providers puts us in the unique position to mirror the goals of greater coordination of care as set forth in the Governor’s proposed new integrated health care model, Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina”.

Ms. Mandy Stone went on to say, “the Western Highlands Board feels that Smoky Mountain Center is a natural partner in preparing for the future. Both organizations understand the needs of Western North Carolina. As important, both organizations have worked diligently to establish relationships with local governments, health and human service agencies and the health care systems in our counties to promote responsive and collaborative relationships that enhance the lives of individuals with behavioral health issues or intellectual/developmental disabilities.” 

Mr. Ingraham noted, “now that the Smoky Mountain Center and the Western Highlands  Boards of Directors have approved the plan for moving forward in preparing for the management of the 1915(b)(c) Waiver operations and other functions, staff of both organizations will begin meeting to plan for a smooth transition. While we have a lot of work ahead to develop a transition plan, we are committed to doing so in a manner that will focus on providing information and regular communication with consumers, families, providers and all of the community agencies and local governments in our service area.”