Guilford County has been trying to unify its Health Department and Department of Social Services for nearly a decade.

Now it’s hiring a consultant to help accomplish that task as well as advise the county on strategic planning for behavioral health services and opioid crisis response.

After issuing a request for proposals two months ago, county staff has recommended Cansler Collaborative Resources, Inc. as the best vendor at a very precise estimated cost of $483,247.50.

According to information provided by county staff to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, “The need for strategic planning processes around DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] Consolidation, Opioid Recovery, and Behavioral Health is driven by the negative impacts of the opioid and COVID-19 health crises and by operational and organizational changes in these areas that have occurred over the last several years.”

Also, the sudden influx of millions of dollars from the national multi-billion-dollar legal settlement against drug makers and millions more from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) are requiring Guilford County, “to promote the development of priorities, strategies and community engagement tactics to enhance environmental conditions for the most vulnerable community members based on the social determinants of health framework.”

One way to look at it is that Guilford County has so much federal aid and lawsuit money flooding in that it needs to spend a half million dollars on a strategic planning consultant to help spend the money.

Here are the three areas the consultants will consult on:

  • Health and Human Services Consolidation. “The study will be a comprehensive strategic planning effort to maximize service enhancements and staffing efficiencies in accordance with Board priorities, customer needs and community resources.” This is expected to cost $143,697.50.

(Guilford County officially merged its health department and social services department about a decade ago – however, to a very large extent they are still operating as separate entities.)

  • Behavioral Health Asset and Access Mapping. The study will “review existing behavioral health services and assets and provide strategies to address gaps in services in behavioral health programs.” Expected cost? $158,460.
  • Opioid Recovery and Epidemic Response. The study will “engage a wide array of stakeholders, evaluate existing programs and services, and identify and evaluate strategies to address the opioid epidemic.” This is expected to run $181,090.

The three-pronged study is expected to take about 12 months.