05/25/05 — Counties reach agreement on Eastpointe funding

View Archive

Counties reach agreement on Eastpointe funding

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 25, 2005 1:45 PM

The Eastpointe Board of Directors voted Tuesday to free up some funds so that Duplin and Sampson counties can pay their fair share of mental health services.

Eastpointe is the organization that provides public services for people with mental health problems, substance abuse problems and developmental disabilities in Wayne, Duplin, Sampson and Lenoir counties.

Wayne County Commissioners learned in March that Duplin and Sampson are paying far less than the required amount for services offered by Eastpointe.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said that many of the Eastpointe services were reimbursed through federal and state programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. But, he said, there are some services that aren't reimbursed. Each county is expected to pay Eastpointe for the services that it uses that aren't reimbursed through state or federal money.

Wayne County paid $690,000 to Eastpointe this year to cover the services Wayne residents used that are not reimbursed.

Smith said that Lenoir County was paying its fair share, but that both Duplin and Sampson were not paying enough.

He said that the two counties paid about $125,000 each annually, but noted that the costs incurred by each were between $325,000 and $350,000 a year.

Last year, the Duplin County commissioners voted to give Eastpointe $122,500, which was $2,500 less than Duplin's original share.

State law allows counties to make a one-time reduction in their share.

Dr. Jack St. Clair, director of Eastpointe, said that the four county managers and four commissioners from each county met Monday to hash out an equitable plan of funding.

"We looked at a per capita arrangement, looking at the population base in each county," he said.

Data was provided by the state demographics office, projecting what the population growth for each county would be for the next four years.

That led the group to come to a figure of $4.13 per person for each county to pay for the next four years.

St. Clair said that before the four counties had consolidated into one organization, the Duplin-Sampson Board of Directors had put some money aside in a special fund.

"They set aside $550,000 thinking some money might have to go back to the state," he said.

St. Clair said that money could be used over the next four years to enable Duplin and Sampson counties to make their equitable payment.

"It's legitimate money that hasn't been touched," St. Clair said. "But first the $550,000 would have to be unrestricted from the board."

Each board of county commissioners will also have to vote to support the proposal.

To send a message of support for the proposal, the Eastpointe board voted to free up the money.

Board members Rita Hodges and George Graham did not agree with the proposal. Ms. Hodges thought that the matter needed further study.

Graham said he didn't understand why the $550,000 wasn't considered part of the merger money when the four counties formed Eastpointe.

"When I married my wife, I married all of my wife," Graham said.

Board Chairman Rebecca Judge said that the "$550,000 was not in the equation during the merger."

The rest of the Eastpointe board supported the proposal, and said it was important to make the partnership work.

"We've got to make this thing work," said Floyd McCullouch.

St. Clair said it was "too mind boggling" to think about it not working.

"We've got to figure out how to hold hands," he said. "We've got a good thing going."