A regional mental health agency in northeastern North Carolina is holding up travel reimbursements and delaying employee pension payments as it attempts to reign in its runaway budget. Dick Oliver, the state-appointed temporary director of the Albemarle Mental Health Center, confirmed Monday that the agency delayed $20,000 in travel reimbursements and $14,000 in payments to employee 401k plans. Both are examples of drastic measures the agency had to enact, he said.“That should never happen,” Oliver said. Cash flow problems are one of the reasons the AMHC Board of Directors voted Jan. 14 to turn the agency over to the state’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The board’s decision followed the revelation in a state audit that AMHC was teetering on the brink of financial insolvency. Oliver said Tuesday the first indication that AMHC is recovering would be paying staff salary and benefits. Those items will be paid by the end of this month, he said. “We’ll struggle a little bit in March just as we did in February,” Oliver said. “I think that (struggling) will happen for two or three more months before we get out of this situation.” Payments to private service providers will be the next big step, he said. Many providers haven’t been paid in months and the total owed could be in the millions of dollars.
(Reggie Ponder, THE DAILY ADVANCE, 2/17/09)