photo of someone listening to another person
Peer counselors can give support because they have had experience with many of the issues people with mental health issues face. Image courtesy Alan Cleaver, flickr creative commons


By Taylor Sisk

Three of North Carolina’s Medicaid mental health organizations announced last week that they’ll be jointly launching a workforce-development initiative to offer training resources to frontline professionals who provide services to people with disabilities.

Cardinal Innovations sign
Photo courtesy Cardinal Innovations

The mental health agencies (known as local management entities/managed care organizations) collaborating in this initiative are Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, Smoky Mountain LME/MCO and Trillium Health Resources. They and the state’s five other LME/MCOs are responsible for public funds for mental health, substance use and intellectual and developmental disability services.

Cardinal is based in Kannapolis and serves 16 counties throughout the Piedmont and into the eastern part of the state. Asheville-based Smoky Mountain serves 23 Western North Carolina counties. And Greenville-based Trillium provides services for 24 eastern counties.

This initiative will offer access to training resources and evidence-based curricula from DirectCourse, an online training program for support and care professionals.

“Direct support professionals are critical to the success of our members,” Richard Topping, chief executive officer of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, said in a press release.

“We welcome Trillium and Smoky’s partnership in the training that Cardinal Innovations Healthcare has piloted for three years,” Topping said. “Our results tell us that the use of this curriculum enhances the quality of the support services to our members and provides a valuable workforce development tool to our provider communities.”

According to the release, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has set new standards for direct-support professionals that focus on improving quality services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The DirectCourse training curricula offered through this new workforce development collaborative are aligned with the CMS competencies that have been adopted in the NC Innovations waiver that will go into effect in North Carolina this July,” the press release states.

“Providers are absolutely critical to the success of North Carolina’s Medicaid system,” Trillium CEO Leza Wainwright said. “This new workforce development collaboration is focused on improving quality of care through improving provider engagement and support.”

Classes offered will include frontline supervision and management, employment services, personal assistance and caregiving and recovery community and inclusion.

“This on-line training program, when paired with effective mentoring, has been demonstrated to improve the quality of services provided by direct support workers – the folks that do the most to impact the lives of our members,” Smoky Mountain CEO Brian Ingraham said.

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