Two North Carolina counties (Buncombe and Henderson) have been selected as pilot sites for a state initiative to use enhanced behavioral health treatment services to reduce the number of children placed in foster care or residential facilities.
The High-Fidelity Wraparound Pilot will be funded by the N.C. Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Disabilities for a four-year trial period. Smoky Mountain MCO, which manages public behavioral health services in western North Carolina, will work with the Department of Social Services (DSS) in Buncombe and Henderson counties, as well as the behavioral healthcare provider Youth Villages and comprehensive care providers, to implement the initiative locally.
The System of Care pilot will target children and youths who receive Medicaid, are in therapeutic foster care and need treatment for mental health, drug or alcohol issues. A team of behavioral health professionals will work with the child and family for up to 18 months to help them get the treatment they need, overcome obstacles and develop healthy behaviors and relationships.
"Many of these families are under a great deal of stress, including possible financial or legal troubles, and often have complex treatment needs," said Rhonda Cox, Smoky's senior director of care coordination. "The High-Fidelity pilot allows us to give children and families extra attention and support from professionals with expertise in these types of issues and also in the social services system."
Six families in Buncombe County and four in Henderson County will participate in the first year of the pilot. In each of the remaining three years, 25 families from the two counties will participate. Smoky will manage the program with support from DSS staff, and Youth Villages will provide the family treatment teams. Local comprehensive providers will participate by offering appropriate treatment services, such as outpatient therapy or intensive in-home services.
"This pilot project brings all partners to the same table," said Tamela Shook, Social Work Division director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services. "It provides consistency for families involved with DSS and lets them know we are committed to helping them succeed."
"We're hoping this pilot results in fewer children being placed outside the home, or shorter lengths of stay outside the home," said Lori Horne, social work program manager with Henderson County DSS. "The ultimate goal is successful family reunifications."
The High-Fidelity pilot is one of two initiatives aimed at building a specialized, reliable continuum of care for children involved with DSS. Smoky is currently working to expand its Intercept program, which provides up to six months of high-intensity family intervention and treatment for children involved with DSS who have more acute behavioral health needs. Intercept was first implemented in several counties in the far western part of the state and will soon be offered in additional counties. Both programs have a goal of stabilizing families, preventing problems from getting worse and reducing the number of children placed outside the home.
If the High-Fidelity pilot produces positive results, state health officials will consider adding it to the list of services covered by Medicaid.
About Smoky Mountain LME/MCO
Smoky Mountain LME/MCO manages public funds for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual/developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Access to services is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-849-6127. Visit Smoky online at www.smokymountaincenter.com.