For years, the administration of the financial aspects of behavioral health services in Guilford County was managed by Sandhills Center – an administrative entity in West End, NC that handled those duties for 11 counties in central North Carolina.

Guilford County had a solid amount of representation on that board – it was one of the conditions the county commissioners insisted on when that relationship was established in the early part of this century.

However, the State of North Carolina is currently forcing mergers of the behavioral health services entities across the state and Guilford  County will soon be in a much larger entity that will manage behavioral health services for 46 counties across central and eastern North Carolina.

At a Thursday, Dec. 21 Board of Commissioners work session, where the topic was discussed with Sandhills CEO Anthony Ward, the commissioners were upset – irate isn’t too strong a word – that at this point, Guilford County has absolutely no say on the board.

There are 22 seats on the governing board of the new mass entity, and none of those seats are designated for Guilford County – even though Guilford County is, by far, the largest county of the 46 participating counties.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston was beside himself.

“We don’t have any standing at this point,” said a highly animated Alston. “We should have three – no less than two – [seats] on the governing board, and we will make that demand. We are the largest county and we haven’t gotten anything.”

He added, “And that bothers me.  Hell no, we’re not going to accept that.  That dog won’t hunt.”

Commissioner Frankie Jones got very loud at the work session – almost to the point of yelling – to make absolutely certain his point was being heard.

“No single county is larger than Greensboro; 38 of them are smaller than High Point!” Jones said.

He called the situation “Unfathomable.”

Alston said state officials knew of the situation in early November but the Guilford County Board of Commissioners only found out about it in a letter received Monday, Dec. 18.

“We didn’t know anything about it until a letter this week,” Alston said.

The commissioners weren’t even sure who to complain to – the NC General Assembly, the director of the NC Health and Human Services Department, or the new administrative management entity that doesn’t even have a board in place yet.

Commissioner Kay Cashion said Guilford County had played a strong and central role with Sandhills for years but, for some reason, was left out of the mix when it came to representation under the new structure.

“The secretary of DHHS doesn’t know about us or is turning a deaf ear to us,” Cashion said. ”The secretary has not been fair.”

The consolidation of behavioral administrative entities was ordered on November 1 of this year by NC Department of Health and Human Services Director Sec. Kody Kinsley, who, earlier in the year, was directed by the NC General Assembly to reduce the number of entities managing behavioral health in the state.

In the very confusing – and constantly changing merger situation – the goal is to end up with four administrative entities in the entire state.

“It changes by the day,” Cashion said of the state’s plans.

Commissioner Alan Perdue added, “This thing is very cloudy.”

The Board of Commissioners, by unanimous consent, instructed the county attorney to write the secretary of DHHS regarding Guilford County’s concerns.