Friday, October 29, 2010

County's response to Open Door project

More than two years ago, Mecklenburg Open Door unveiled plans to build a center that would help people facing mental health crises. More than $500,000 has been spent on the project. But now its future is uncertain.

Mecklenburg County did not make any of its mental health department officials available for an interview about the project. Instead, the department submitted written answers to the Observer's questions.

Here they are:

Charlotte Observer Questions: Crisis Stabilization Unit

When was the project first proposed?

· During FY06-07 the State Division of MH/DD/SA required each Local Management Entity to develop a Crisis Services Plan. The Plan was to describe all crisis services available within the community and to identify any service needs or gaps.
· A Crisis Planning Committee comprised of representatives from CMC, Presbyterian, service providers and LME staff established September 2006.
· April 2007 the Crisis Plan finalized the recommendation that a centralized, facility-based crisis service unit be developed.

What specifically do the plans call for? (number of beds, total square footage, other amenities, etc.)

· Mecklenburg Open Door proposed in May 2008 for the renovation of approximately 8,253 square feet at Charlottetown Manor to include development, construction and related start up costs for a 16 bed unit.

Who will be served by the unit? How will those clients be identified? And how will the unit help them? How will the project help the community? What needs will it help meet?

· The crisis unit would be an unlocked, residential facility where individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can get services to help them get stabilized in a safe environment.
· This would offer an option other than being incarcerated or institutionalized.
· This would help the community by stabilizing individuals that might otherwise be incarcerated or homeless.

What is happening to those people now?

· Individuals present with different issues. It is difficult to speculate what might or might not be occurring with specific individuals. Some may be in jail or some may be homeless. Some may present at the CMC-R emergency room or inpatient.

When originally was the project scheduled for completion?

· The original completion date was scheduled for January 2009

When were the first plans drawn up?

· The initial concept and plans were developed in February 2008

What work has been completed on the project so far?

· Initial demolition of interior first floor space.

What companies are involved in the planning and construction? How were those companies chosen?

· Arcons Design Studio: architectural and planning aspects of the project
· Jasam Group: contractor/builder
Both were selected by MOD

What has delayed the project so far?

· March 2009: zoning and facility integrity issues
· November 2009: licensure DHSR, final approval from the state licensure pending
· Issues related to fire and sprinkler system
· Structural issues, lead paint, and asbestos recognition and abatement
· April 2010: upgrading main building’s electrical service and HVAC system

How much money has been spent on the project so far?

· Fy’08-’09: $325,248
· FY’09-’10: $194,846
All funds are State funds; Mental Health Trust Fund or Crisis Services Funds

What is the current status of the Crisis Stabilization Unit? Do you still expect it will be built? Which agency will be responsible for ensuring the project is built?

· On hold pending negotiation of a contract with a new provider
· The development of the crisis stabilization unit was included as part of the Request for Information.

If so, when do you anticipate that it will be completed? Where will the project be built?

· It is too soon to speculate on any details at this point.

What hurdles must be cleared before the project is completed? What additional plans or funding must be approved?

· Charlottetown Manor site must be assessed by new provider before further funding is established.

What is the expected total cost of the project? What percentage of that will be state money? What percentage will be county money?

· Total cost of the project will be reassessed with new provider
· All funds for a Crisis Stabilization unit are State funds

What else should the public know about this project?

- Ames Alexander

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Emails between Bob Steel and the Fed

Click here to read the emails

Final report of Open Door internal probe

Mecklenburg County on Wednesday released a final report of an internal investigation launched into allegations of misspent money at Mecklenburg Open Door, a contractor that has received millions in government dollars in recent years.

The report said Open Door's former executive director Ed Payton took out more than $147,000 in unauthorized loans from the organization and racked up nearly $53,000 more in unsubstantiated bills on his company credit card.

The report -- which you can read by clicking here -- was prepared by accountant William Barbee by request of the Open Door board of directors.

Payton has repaid about $79,000 of the money he borrowed, but still owes the organization nearly $122,000. -- April Bethea and Ames Alexander

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Berry: 'Shocked and outraged'

In a statement issued Tuesday, N.C. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry weighed in on the national recordkeeping program.

Here's the statement she emailed to the Observer:

Thank you so much for drawing public attention to this National Emphasis Program’s outrageous waste of taxpayer money. We volunteered to participate in this National Emphasis Program before it was mandated so that we could monitor its implementation and outcome and currently have two open inspections. As the program was put into place, we were shocked and outraged given our current state budget deficit and federal budget deficit at the waste of $2 million in taxpayer money. The ill-conceived program was then mandated by federal OSHA for all state plan states. The Feds then suspended the program July 27, 2010, because it did not produce the desired results. On Sept. 28, federal OSHA sent a new set of instructions.

North Carolina and other state plan states received no funding. I’m glad we didn’t because it has proven to be a total waste of taxpayer money given our current economy. This is why we don’t need Washington trying to micromanage North Carolina’s successful OSH program. They even wanted us to do an NEP on oil refineries. Guess what? We don’t have oil refineries in North Carolina.

The PEER group press release appears to be an effort to gin up support for the over-reaching, job-killing PAWA legislation in Congress.

- Ames Alexander

Monday, October 4, 2010

Letter lays out memories of Open Door

Daniel Harrison, Mecklenburg Open Door’s former chief financial officer, said he urged former Executive Director Ed Payton to tell the organization’s governing board about the large sums of money he'd been borrowing from the group – and that his failure to do so was the “single biggest threat” to the mental health group.

In a letter to the Observer, he laid out his memories of what happened at the organization under Payton's tenure.

Read the letter (.pdf)