06/30/04 — Mental health agency delays plan to move employees

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Mental health agency delays plan to move employees

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 30, 2004 2:02 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Eastpointe mental health officials have tabled a controversial plan to spin off a nonprofit agency after realizing it could lead to a cut in state funding.

Eastpointe Director Jack St. Clair has called for at least a six-month wait before the mental health agency would do anything regarding the proposed split.

"We're going to take some time and look at our options," St. Clair told the Eastpointe directors at their meeting in Wayne County on Tuesday night. "We don't need to get everyone all hyped up."

The directors had argued bitterly in May over a plan to move some of Eastpointe's 300 employees to Upper Cape Fear Human Services Inc. The employees provide mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse services.

St. Clair had wanted Eastpointe to contract with Upper Cape Fear, which St. Clair has already chartered, to provide services. Basically, employees would continue to do the jobs they do now and the public would still receive the same quality of services, he said.

But some directors, including Floyd McCullouch of Goldsboro, have worried about the split. Upper Cape Fear would have to have a separate board and director to meet legal requirements and then Eastpointe would have no control over the nonprofit, they have argued.

Since the last meeting, the N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services has said it may cut funding to a local agency like Eastpointe if it enters a contract like St. Clair had proposed.

The division is also showing some new willingness to work with agencies in rural North Carolina. The state reforms call for most services to be provided by people and businesses in the private sector, but many areas of the state don't have those services available.

Mike Moseley, recently named the division's director, seems to be more patient than his predecessor, St. Clair said. "He knows we need to slow this train down a little bit."

St. Clair still feels optimistic that Eastpointe will be able to protect jobs for the next three years.

McCullouch asked if St. Clair was abandoning the idea. "Is this totally dead?" he asked.

St. Clair replied that he is still trying to find the best solutions.