County begins disengagement from Cardinal, realignment with Partners

County begins disengagement from Cardinal, realignment with Partners
March 31
15:24 2021

From now until May 5, the Forsyth County government is seeking public input on its disengagement plan from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare.

Here’s what we know: The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services contracts LME/MCO (Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization) services to different providers, but individual counties have the final say so in who provides those services. Since 2016 Cardinal Innovations Healthcare has managed the county’s behavioral services, but last November the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted to end the relationship with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare.  

In February, county staff presented a disengagement plan to the board that recommended that the county realign with Partners Behavioral Health Management and during their meeting on March 4, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve the plan and essentially got the ball rolling on the disengagement process.

In order to change LME/MCOs, there are several steps the county has to take. First, they have to inform the state health secretary of the disengagement request, who has 90 days to decide whether to approve. But before that, the county will accept public comments on the disengagement plan for 60 days and after that the comments will be posted on the county’s website for another 30 days.

After the public comment period, county staff will submit a formal request to the state and if it is approved, the disengagement process will begin. According to county attorney Gordon Watkins, the process should be complete around October of this year. 

Partners Behavioral Health Management was formed through a merger of three separate local management entities in 2012. Partners’ mission is to “manage a behavioral health care system funded by federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars. We ensure all individuals who are eligible for our programs have access to quality providers and effective services. We improve lives and strengthen our communities by focusing on positive outcomes and the proper use of funds entrusted to us.”

Currently, Partners serves nine different counties across the state, including Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Rutherford, Surry, and Yadkin Counties. Along with Forsyth County, Partners is also working on realignment in Cabarrus County, Union County, and Stanly County. 

To help ease the process, the county has established a Transition Planning Team comprised of stakeholders, healthcare providers, recipients of services, and other members of the community. During the planning team’s first meeting on March 26, Partners’ CEO, Rhett Melton, said, “Partners is very honored and humbled … that the county has elected to pursue engagement with Partners. We don’t take that lightly and we don’t take that as anything other than a testament to our work and the value that we try to live every day.” 

The disengagement plan can be found at The public comments will be accepted until May 5. Comments can be left on the County’s website or sent by mail to the Forsyth County Manager’s Office, 201 N. Chestnut Street. For more information, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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