A decade ago, Guilford County government reluctantly gave up a great deal of control regarding the way mental health and substance abuse services were being administered in the county.

The county turned most of those duties over to Sandhills Center – a multi-county behavioral health care administrative entity run out of West End, North Carolina, which is about an hour south of Greensboro if you speed.

Guilford County was forced to make the change – due to changes in state law –  and the county did so very reluctantly.  At the time, Guilford Center Director Billie Martin Pierce – who ran behavioral health services for the county – publicly voiced her concerns and retired soon after the change was announced.  The $10 million in funds that previously went to the Guilford Center, began going to Sandhills instead, which took over those administrative duties.

A decade later, in a Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, work session of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the board wanted to know where the money was going and wanted to know exactly how that money was being used to benefit the county.  Representatives of Sandhills were in the room and this is at a time when Guilford County wants more control of its behavioral health services due to a strong initiative meant to once and for all battle against homelessness in the county

The questions came as the Board of Commissioners began an in-depth discussion as to how to address the problem of mental health and substance abuse.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston opened the questions up: “We’ve been doing this for about 10 years now, with Sandhills, working with this collaboration and giving an average of right at $9.6 million [a year], What are the outcomes?  What are we getting for that money for Guilford County citizens? “How are Guilford County citizens benefiting from that?

“When I see people sleeping on the streets,” Alston added, “I have all these questions,”

“Somebody’s got some money sitting out there that can address this problem,” a forceful Alston told the people in the Carolyn Q. Coleman Conference Room

“We have to solve this problem of homelessness,” Alston said.

County staff said that performance measures were being evaluated and Sandhills Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer Anthony Ward said that the county could spend the $9.6 million it controls in virtually any way it wanted.

Those funds, he said, are the “most flexible.”

“Whatever you want those county dollars to go for is what they will go for,” he said.

Other money coming in connected to programs like Medicaid, he said, had relatively tight rules on how the funds could be spent.