Vaya Health CEO previews ‘seamless’ transition of care as company merges with Cardinal Innovations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 2021

SALISBURY — While speaking to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, Vaya Health President and CEO Brian Ingraham promised a “seamless” merger between his company and Cardinal Innovations Healthcare in Rowan County.

“It’s really going to be focused on the best of Cardinal and best of Vaya coming together,” Ingraham said.

Based in Charlotte, Cardinal Innovations is a state-mandated Medicaid care provider that serves people with mental health needs, substance use disorders and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities in Rowan County. Cardinal provided care management to more than a dozen counties in North Carolina before counties began breaking their contracts with the company while citing displeasure in the care provided.

Rowan County never broke its contract with Cardinal and has decided to keep Vaya as its provider as the companies combine. 

Ingraham said the merger between the two companies, which was announced in June, will likely be complete in Rowan County around the start of the new year. Ingraham said most of the merger will take place “behind the curtains” and that the company’s “intention is only to make things better” while keeping quality Cardinal staff members in place.

Commissioner Judy Klusman, who serves on Cardinal’s board of directors, said Vaya’s desire to keep Cardinal staff members in place is one of the reasons why Rowan County decided to stick with the company.

“This is a seamless change for the folks in Rowan because the goal is to keep the same providers and care coordinators,” Klusman said. “They get so close to these families that they are like their family.”

Most of the counties neighboring Rowan have elected to go in a different direction, many of them choosing Partners Health Management instead. Ingraham promised commissioners that Rowan County would not be an island for the company, which mainly manages counties in western North Carolina but is expanding into other parts of the state as it merges with Cardinal.

“We’re going to be present and engaged here as we would in any other county,” Ingraham said.

Chairman Greg Edds told Ingraham that Rowan County is excited to work with Vaya, but also made his expectations for the company clear.

“As you can well imagine, we’ve been under tremendous pressure to make other decisions to move on,” Edds said. “That’s not judging you or us or anyone else. That’s to say we look forward to working with you and we hope we made a good choice here. We expect that we have. We look forward to verifying to other counties that we have made a good choice.”

Commissioners approve Rowan Transit grant applications

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners gave Rowan Transit approval to apply for $846,820 in grant funding from the North Carolina Public Transportation Division for fiscal year 2023. The funding would come by way of three separate grants. 

The first grant is for $250,300 and would cover administrative costs for Rowan Transit, including salary support for staff, travel costs, utilities, advertising, a secured parking lot and office expenses. The county would match $37,545 (15%) if the grant is approved.

The second grant is for $385,000 and would provide rural operating funds in support of increased demands for dialysis transportation and continued service to Rowan Vocational Opportunities and Trinity Living Center. The funding, Rowan Transit Director Valerie Steele said, would help Rowan Transit achieve its goal of eliminating the current waitlist for transportation to dialysis treatments. There would be no county match for the grant.

The third grant is for $211,520 and would support the replacement of three qualified vehicles in 2023. The grant would require a $21,152 (10%) county match. In total, the county would match $58,697. The county would budget for that funding in its 2023 fiscal year budget. 

If the grants are provided by the N.C. Public Transportation Division, the Board of Commissioners would still have to approve their acceptance.

In other meeting business:

• Commissioners approved a special non-residential intensity allocation request from Foley Homes Sales, LLC for the company to construct a 12,000-square-foot shell building on lot three of the recently developed Horsepower Park subdivision, which is located at 180 Nitro Alley in Mooresville. A special non-residential intensity allocation clears an applicant to exceed the allowed built-upon area in a watershed. The building is going to be improved to be a warehouse with future tenants to follow. The request meets all standards for approval, according to the Rowan County Planning Department’s staff report. Doug Foley of Foley Homes Sales said the building will be the first of seven constructed on the property. All of the buildings, Foley said, will be geared toward racing-oriented businesses. 

• The board scheduled a public hearing for its meeting on Sept. 20 regarding a request from NorthPoint Development for a new incentive agreement. NorthPoint recently purchased 41 acres of land located at 410 Webb Road near I-85 and has plans to build a 630,000-square-foot facility on the site to be leased for manufacturing purposes. To “aggressively pursue tenants,” NorthPoint would like to use incentives from Rowan County to lower lease rates. 

• Commissioners approved a request from Taylor Clay Products for a special use permit required to build a 7,875-square-foot building addition to the company’s existing brick manufacturing facility at 1225 Chuck Taylor Lane.

• The board approved the release of a request for proposals for federal and state lobbying services. There is $60,000 in the current budget for lobbying services. The lobbyist would actively and continuously lobby Congress and the administration to assist Rowan County in several key areas.

• Commissioners approved the purchase of two machines totaling $813,142 for the Rowan County Landfill. The county will purchase a 2021 Caterpillar 963 Track Loader for $379,331 and a 2021 Caterpillar D6 Dozer for $433,811. The purchase of the equipment is within the approved fiscal year 2021-22 budget.

• The board approved a contract worth $114,250 between Rowan County and Aviation Management Consulting Group for the company to perform an assessment of the Mid-Carolina Airport.

• The board approved an application from Providence Transportation for the company to provide ambulance services in Rowan County. Providence does not currently operate in the county. In a letter submitted to commissioners, EMS Chief Allen Cress said Nu Care Carolina abruptly ceased operations last week in Rowan County and Providence would fill that void, starting out by providing limited services for at least 12 hours a day while finding a base of operations and expanding staffing in the county with the goal of operating 24 hours daily.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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