By Isaac Groves
“Alamance County is one of the best in the state of North Carolina,” said Art Springer, president of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “There are a lot of services available, but people don’t know how to access the system.”
Years ago there was a county mental hospital with a sign out front understandable to anyone, Springer said. Now there are a variety of agencies with names like Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and RHA Health Services, and those names seem to change every few years as state policy changes.
“It’s very confusing,” Springer said. “I can’t keep up with it.”
Emergency contacts for a mental-health crisis include: The NAMI North Carolina Helpline; Cardinal Innovations Referral and Crisis Line; and RHA Behavioral Health Services walk-in Crisis Center.
Years of reform have left North Carolina, like a lot of states, with a mental healthcare system that is both public and private.
“We’re a public entity that acts like a private entity for the public good,” said Ric Bruton, senior community executive for Cardinal Innovations Central Territory.
Cardinal Innovations doesn’t treat patients. It makes contracts with the organizations and individual practitioners that do, like RHA, and processes Medicaid and state funds, and works out what services patients qualify for, said Bob Byrd, a county commissioner who is on Cardinal’s Community Board.
Providers offer treatment, from the walk-in crisis center at RHA, to substance-abuse and mental health counseling at Residential Treatment Services Agency of Alamance County, to care for the developmentally disabled at Carolina Child Psychology. When local psychiatrists bill for Medicaid patients, they bill Cardinal.