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5 Things To Know: Steve Smith to Help Launch Mental Health Urgent Care Facility

...and four more stories from Jan. 23-29, 2022

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Steve Smith described his goal to open a mental health urgent care facility at the Mecklenburg BOCC retreat this week. (Photo by Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

Steve Smith to Help Launch Mental Health Urgent Care Facility

The Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners plans to launch the first Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) in Mecklenburg County with help from Carolinas Panthers legend Steve Smith, the county’s first mental health urgent care facility. At their annual budget retreat this week Smith announced that Mecklenburg County partnered with Alliance Health, Daymark Recovery and the Steve Smith Family Foundation to create this new facility. There will be a press conference on Monday, Jan. 31 to discuss the plans further. 

What we know now: The BHUC will be a 24/7/365 option to those experiencing crises related to mental illness or substance abuse. The facility will provide immediate mental health treatment to adults and children as an alternative to an emergency room. In addition to on-site assessment and treatment, BHUC staff will also be able to refer out cases.

Mecklenburg County will invest $2 million into the construction of the BHUC and plans to cover $750,000 worth of operating fees each year. 

Smith presented preliminary plans for the new facility at the retreat on Thursday. Smith has been outspoken about his own struggle with mental illness. In 2018, he authored an op-ed on NFL.com about his experience with depression and counseling. During the presentation on Thursday, he stressed the importance of giving back to the city of Charlotte. 

“That is my purpose, and when they lay me in the ground here, I want to leave a legacy on this city the same way that they’ve changed the legacy for my family for generations,” he said. 

The new center will be located in east Charlotte on Colonnade Drive. Its opening date is set for January 2023. 


Record Number of NCians Sign Up for Health Care

The Biden-Harris Administration announced Thursday that 14.5 million Americans enrolled in health-care coverage during 2022’s open enrollment period. Of those 14.5 million, 670,223 were from North Carolina. This is the highest annual rate since the Affordable Care Act launched in 2013. 

The open-enrollment period ran from November 15, 2021 to January 15, 2022. 

N.C. Navigator Consortium credited the record-breaking numbers to a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. N.C. Navigator Consortium, which consists of nine health care, social service and legal aid organizations, helps North Carolina consumers obtain coverage through HealthCare.gov. 

CMMS awarded the consortium a $5 million grant for the 2022 open-enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 15, 2021 to Jan. 15, 2022. Director Mark Van Arnam said that this funding proved invaluable to the Navigators’ mission. 

“Thanks to our increased funding from CMS,” Van Arnam said in a release on Friday, “we doubled the number of navigators in the field, we increased spending on advertising, boosted outreach efforts — both virtually and in person — secured more earned media than ever before, and offered more enrollment opportunities.”


Construction Begins on South End Tower

Construction crews broke ground on the construction of a 23-story tower in South End on Wednesday. The tower, called 110 East, is a joint project between Florida-based developer Stiles and California-based real estate firm Shorenstein. It is slated to open in 2024. 

When finished, 110 East will be 370,000 square feet, including 6,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the ground floor, a garage with over 900 spaces on floors 2-10, a lobby and fitness center on floor 11 and offices for the remaining 12 floors. 

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This is the newest of South End’s tower construction projects. Lowe’s is also building the Design Center Tower, which will also stand at 23 stories. Chicago firm Riverside Investment & Development is also planning to build three more towers where Midnight Diner and Uptown Cabaret currently stand. White Point Partners and Greystar are building a 24-story apartment tower one block from 110 East where the now-shuttered Rosemont bar was located.

The development team has not made contracts with any tenants. But they remain confident that the tower’s construction will prove lucrative. 

“(Charlotte) is a great city, a great economy … and there are great people here,” Shorenstein managing partner Matt Knisely said during Wednesday’s ground-breaking ceremony. “You’re very welcoming to out-of-towners like us.”


Foundation CEO to Retire

After 23 years of leading the Charlotte-based Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC), president and CEO Michael Marsicano announced Tuesday that he plans to retire in January 2023. 

After Marsicano took the helm in 1999, the philanthropic foundation grew its assets from $245 million to almost $4 billion. It is now one of the largest community foundations in the United States.

Founded in 1958, FFTC donates hundreds of millions of dollars every year to various civic projects and nonprofits throughout North and South Carolina. Some of its most well-known projects in recent years include the Carolina Thread Trail, a network of greenways spanning 15 counties, and Project L.I.F.T., an initiative to improve graduation rates at West Charlotte High School over five years.

During Marsicano’s tenure, FFTC also bankrolled organizations such as NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies that organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Right Wing Watch have deemed “anti-immigration.” After Sludge reported on those donations, the Charlotte Observer concluded that, of the top 10 community foundations in the United States, FFTC was the only one making charitable donations to xenophobic organizations.

Marsicano was upfront about the issue, stating that FFTC is but a middleman in some philanthropic efforts and has to hand the money over to the organizations its donors demand. 

The foundation’s governing board has assembled a search committee for the new CEO.


CMS To Apply Retroactive Pay Raise

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools finalized a $2.2 billion budget on Tuesday. In the process, it approved employee pay increases retroactive to July 1, 2021, as a reward for extra work completed throughout the pandemic. 

The school board approved a $1.77 billion budget in April 2021 with a 3% raise for staff, but the budget’s approval was delayed until November, when the NCGA finally adopted the state budget.

All teachers and instructional staff will get a 1.3% pay increase and $300 bonus. Principals will either receive 2.5% raises or $1,800 bonuses, depending on when they were hired. Occupational and physical therapists will receive 1.3% pay increases. Other personnel, like psychologists and guidance counselors, will receive bonus monthly supplements.

Non-certified instructional substitutes will have their pay increased to $98 per day in accordance with state law. The daily rate for certified instructional substitutes will increase to $126 per day. 

Superintendent Earnest Winston recognized the importance of providing better pay as the pandemic continued. 

“The CMS team has taken on even greater responsibility at a time when they already were overburdened,” he said in his remarks to the board. “To them we say thank you, but we understand that is not enough.”


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