Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston certainly has his critics, but there is undeniably a benefit to having a commissioner on the board who’s served across four decades.
Due to that long tenure and his other associations, Alston knows a lot of people in state government and he has some say with them.
That proved to be the case recently after Alston and his fellow eight county commissioners discovered that Guilford County had not been granted a single seat on the governing board that oversees the administration its mental health and behavioral health services. Even though Guilford County was assigned to the new management entity, the county was to have no say in the decision making.
In a shuffle meant to bring efficiencies from economies of scale, the state dissolved Guilford County’s former mental and behavioral health administrator, Sandhills Center, and subsumed the Sandhills counties under Eastpointe Human Services – and then merged that management entity with Trillium Health Resources.
That created one giant administrative entity run by a board that had no representation from Guilford County.
When the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held a work session on Thursday, Dec. 21, Alston and other commissioners were extremely disturbed to find out that the new 22-member board that oversees the large new management entity included not one single seat for Guilford County.
Guilford County had had solid representation on the Sandhills, Inc. board before the state dissolved it.
With the new entity, Guilford County was left out of the mix even though it is by far the biggest county in the group and even though it pays out $10 million each year for the administration of its behavioral health services.
Alston, who knows Governor Roy Cooper and NC Department of Health and Human Services Director Kody Kinsley, made some calls and made the county’s case.
Alston said initially Kinsley said he would see if it were possible to get Guilford County a seat on the board.
Alston said, “I told him, ‘With all due respect, we need three seats on the board – though we can settle on two.’”
Alston told the state’s Health and Human Services director that it was only fair given the size of Guilford County relative to the other counties in the group and the fact that Guilford County shells out so much money for the service.
In the end, Guilford County did get two representatives: Alston and Commissioner Carlvena Foster.
Alston said he didn’t petition for himself to serve on the board, but he found out later that he and Foster had been selected as Guilford County’s representatives.
He said that, to this day, he has no idea how the state initially made the unfathomable decision to provide Guilford County no representation whatsoever.