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Judy Klusman to serve on Cardinal Innovations board

Rowan County Commissioner Judy Klusman has been appointed to the new Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions board of directors.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services fired the previous board last month and took control of the agency.

Cardinal manages mental health and substance abuse programs for a 20-county region, including Rowan, Cabarrus, Davidson and Stanly.

Representatives from all 20 counties gathered Wednesday to nominate replacement board members and to vote on who would take the seats.

Klusman was Rowan County’s representative, though she said the nominating committee had “an amazing amount of wonderful applicants.”

In total, 21 will serve on the board.

Wednesday’s meeting was presided over by Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.

Klusman said the work took some time but that she is pleased with the outcome.

“I’m excited to begin work,” she said.

Currently, the state and former leaders of Cardinal Innovations are locked in court battles. State officials have demanded that Cardinal repay $3.8 million in “unlawful” severance pay offered to its former CEO and three executives.

On Thursday, former Cardinal Innovations leaders countersued, saying the state lacks authority to take over the organization and remove its board.

According to the lawsuit, the previous Cardinal board advised the state that it planned to pay severance to departing executives and repay the amount to the state. The lawsuit says DHHS then “reneged on the deal reached by the parties.”

Klusman also serves on the Rowan County Department of Social Services board and the Board of Public Health.

She started an opioid task force for the county, which held a forum for government leaders this year. Another training session is planned early next year for the public.

Klusman was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for 12 years. She said that experience left her with an understanding of budgeting and Medicaid.

“Being a county commissioner, I’m very aware of how we spend taxpayer dollars,” she said. “That’s one of the things we’re going to have to work on as we reconstitute this board.”

Klusman said that, according to news reports, the previous board really went overboard with spending in nonservice areas. That money, she said, really should have gone into patient care rather than opulent retreats and buildings.

She said she had heard many reports of individuals who tried to get services through Cardinal and couldn’t or encountered difficulties doing so.

“As a commissioner, I really want to change that,” she said. “We really become more accessible to the community.”

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