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Ingraham: Blame for New River with Counties PDF Print
Written by Steve Frank   
Tuesday, 27 December 2011 07:48

The blame for the financial mess with New River Behavioral Healthcare rests with the governments of the five counties it served—that the message from the CEO of Smoky Mountain Center, funding agency as the local management entity for behavioral health care across the region.  Brian Ingraham told the Wilkes Commission Tuesday night last week that the ultimate responsibility for New River Service Authority’s (NRSA) financial collapse rested with the Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Avery county governments.  The Wilkes Journal-Patriot reports that Ingraham blamed a 2006 decision that came as “Most counties looked forward to the opportunity to limit their liabilities,” by participating in a mental health care reform plan that called for having private entities provide behavioral health care instead of local governments.  Commissioners questioned Ingraham about why someone didn’t catch New River’s financial problems sooner and why Smoky Mountain wasn’t doing more to assist financially, Ingraham said language in the 160A agreement that governed how New River operated made the five counties responsible for overseeing finances of NRSA. He blamed salaries and benefits of the employees of New River Behavioral HealthCare as being too generous for the market and exceeded what private providers offered. The paper reports that Commissioner David Gambill asked Ingraham how New River’s financial situation got so bad without it being recognized sooner, to which Ingraham replied that New River’s annual budgets showed it was losing large amounts of money and that Smoky Mountain officials had tried unsuccessfully to get more information from New River about its finances. Ingraham was at the Wilkes meeting to ask for money for an expanded facility for Smoky Mountain in Waynesville, approved by the board 4 to 1.

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