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State legislators grilled leaders of the state Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the interim head of Western Highlands Network, at a legislative oversight hearing at the capitol Tuesday.
The discussion was held in response to Western Highlands’ recent revelation that the mental health agency had come up $3 million short in the six months since converting to a managed care organization in January. The agency provides mental-health, substance-abuse and developmental-disability services in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey counties.
Legislators also learned that consultants had warned DHHS officials last fall of problems at Western Highlands as the organization prepared for making the transition, but state health leaders allowed the changes to go forward anyway. But some at the meeting defended the agency, which was only the second mental health agency to make the switch from being providers of care to managing what is essentially a small insurance company.
The only point of agreement is that there is plenty of blame to go around.
Already, in a board meeting on July 27, the Western Highlands board fired agency CEO Arthur Carder Jr. after learning that Carder had been aware of financial problems for several months before notifying board members. ...