Clients look for clarity in WHN contract termination

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 05:23 AM

After the initial announcement regarding the termination of a waiver contract between the state and the Western Highlands Network, Rutherford County residents weren’t sure what to think.

Last week, the state Division of Medical Assistance announced it was terminating its 1915 (b)/(c) waiver contract with Western Highlands, leaving a lot of questions.

“My first reaction was whether my program was going to be bothered,” said Jerri Clayburn of Rutherfordton.

Clayburn has been on Medicaid for the last two years and was one of the first patients to receive the waiver benefits when the Western Highlands Network came into operation in 2012.

He said he heard some rumblings regarding the Western Highlands Network but nothing came to fruition until he saw an article in The Daily Courier related to the contract termination.

Western Highlands serves as a pass-through for Clayburn’s provider, RHA Health Services, Inc.

“My provider told me that everything was going to be okay,” Clayburn said. “It was explained to me that, no matter who takes over for Western Highlands, RHA was still going to be there.”

That is the same message that officials with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have stated since the announcement became public. DHHS has direct oversight of the Division of Medical Assistance.

“It is not the intent to have any adverse affect on any clients of Western Highlands,” said Julie Henry, acting director of public affairs for DHHS. “We have been talking about a plan on how to make the transition and how we can expedite credentialling for providers.”

Rosemary Weaver, facilitator for Holland House located in Forest City, said those that come to the house don’t have direct contact with Western Highlands. Holland House is billed as a place where behavioral health patients can “go to in crisis.”

“Some people who saw the article in the paper were freaking out because they weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Weaver said.

The contract between the Division of Medical Assistance and the Western Highlands Network will expire on July 31. Members of the Western Highlands board have suggested that the deadline be moved back to Sept. 30 and even Dec. 31.

“It really upset me because I thought it would do away with mental health services,” said Eric Head, a Spindale resident who receives services through Western Highlands.

Now, despite the fact that individual clients have very little, if any, direct contact with the Western Highlands Network, Clayburn said he hopes better services come out of the transition.

Weaver added that Holland House is still a viable option for those experiencing a crisis situation.

“Holland House is not affected by this at all, so people know they can still come here,” Weaver said.