Several years ago, Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Services, an area program serving the seven westernmost counties in North Carolina, was confronted with a problem. Para-professional staff, who were being recruited for positions at a Level III residential treatment facility and in school-based services, were having difficulty meeting state personnel requirements and didn't fit neatly into state classifications. In addition, these employees expressed more interest in higher hourly wages, a basic health insurance package and more frequent pay periods and less interest in state benefits, like retirement. In response to this, Smoky Mountain Center decided to "spin-off" a 501C-3 organization, entitled Mountain Area Support Services (MASS), that was incorporated on November 30, 2001. MASS immediately began to recruit employees for the aforementioned positions and in turn leased these individuals to Smoky Mountain Center, in effect, serving as a staffing agency for its parent organization.
At around the same time, legislation (HB 381) was enacted by Governor Easley that mandated the reform of the public mental health system and prompted the creation of the "State Plan 2001: A Blueprint for Change". The primary tenets of system reform revolved around the privatization of provider services and the transformation of area programs from providers of care to managers of care. Rather fortuitously, MASS was in a unique position to respond to the reform initiative and so the administration began to conceive of MASS as a service providing entity.
Beginning July 1, 2003, MASS began to operate programs and generate revenue based on the units of service provided. MASS intends to provide a comprehensive array of outpatient, school-based and residential mental health and substance abuse services to children and adults, with a particular emphasis on seriously mentally ill, severely behaviorally disordered and court-involved populations. For the foreseeable future, MASS will contract with Smoky Mountain Center for ancillary supports and services (medical records management, billing, Human Resources, office space etc.)
On December 21, 2003, the administration of MASS officially changed the name of the organization to Meridian Behavioral Health Services.
Since 2003, Meridian has grown to providing services in eight counties (Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Transylvania) and offers services for both children and adults; to learn more about Meridian’s services click here. In 2010, Meridian Behavioral Health Services became a Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency (CABHA).
Meridian Behavioral Health Services is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors, who currently hold monthly meetings on the fourth Friday of each month. The Board of Directors is responsible for establishing policy to be carried out by the staff. Joe Ferrara was appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2003 and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the organization.