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Erin Nantz Completes Most Community Transitions in the State for Members with IDD

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — febrero 1, 2019 — 5 min de lectura
Looking back over her nearly 27 years with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, Erin Nantz said she fills with pride thinking of one young man whose dream she helped fulfill. He was living in a State Developmental Center (SDC) and wanted to live more independently in his own apartment. 

“He now works, is in a band, goes to community activities that he is interested in via public transportation, and is exploring the world of dating," Nantz said. Recently, the same young man who had lived for 16 years in an SDC started speaking at state functions about his positive experiences with his transition. 

“I was moved to tears when I heard him speak," said Nantz. As an Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD) Olmstead Specialist with Cardinal Innovations, Nantz's job is to help individuals transition from SDCs back to community living. 

She also works on transitions through Money Follows the Person, which involves Reserved Capacity waiver slots set aside for people transitioning from an SDC, a community Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) group home, a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF), or a state hospital (such as Broughton or Central Regional) back to the community. Recently, Nantz was recognized by North Carolina Money Follows the Person (NC MFP) for completing the most community transitions in the state for members with developmental disabilities. 

Nantz joined Cardinal Innovations in June 1992 when the organization had a different name and still provided services directly to members. Now the organization manages care with a network of qualified providers. Nantz has been an IDD Olmstead Specialist for 12 years. 

“Over the course of 12 years, I have transitioned 70-plus members," she said, adding that when she started, Cardinal Innovations was not using MFP slots and instead used only (b)(3) deinstitutionalization funding, which supported transitioning five people annually. When Cardinal Innovations began using MFP slots, it was allotted five spots per year. Now, Cardinal Innovations has 16 spots per year – more than any other Managed Care Organization (MCO). Nantz and her colleague, Jill McKenny, work together to fill those slots each year.

“It is all about the teamwork when someone is ready to move," she said. “Everyone must do their part to ensure that services and supports are in place and that nothing falls through the cracks."

The Olmstead team takes the lead during transition and facilitates the meetings. The team also completes a comprehensive MFP or (b)(3) deinstitutionalization transition plan to ensure that everyone has the information they need and members know who to call/contact if an issue arises.

Before Nantz joined Cardinal Innovations in 1992, she attended college and worked at a veterinary clinic. She later started working in mental health in Monroe, N.C., working with psychiatrists and outpatient therapists as a mental health case manager for the Robert Wood Johnson residential program. She also provided case management to all of the members who participated in the partial hospitalization program, which then became the Clubhouse model. 

From there, Nantz worked as the Rowan County Coordinator and then an IDD CC Supervisor position in Concord, N.C. She also has worked as a Quality Management Specialist and a QM Supervisor position before transitioning to her current role.  

Nantz not only works in the mental health field, she also is mom to a son with ADHD and anxiety and a daughter who has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. 

“My daughter went through a very deep bout of depression in 2017 and was contemplating suicide (with a plan)," Nantz said. “My husband and I spent a frantic and panicked night hiding all of our knives, sharp objects and medication when we learned of her plan. We struggled a great deal trying to find a therapist that she would feel comfortable enough with that she could share her feelings with. We contemplated hospitalization, not only for her suicidal ideation, but also her eating disorder (as she became malnourished and underweight). In the end, she was agreeable to signing a no harm contract and trying medication."

Nantz said she and her husband worked with the schools to develop a plan that would allow their daughter to graduate early and even take some early college classes online. “She still struggles with anxiety when in large crowds and depression, but is finally starting to enjoy life again," Nantz said. 

Around the same time, Nantz and her husband had to work with the school system to advocate for a 504 plan for their son. “I did a lot of research and consulted people, much more knowledgeable than I, about the special education laws to determine how to be the best advocate for him," she said. “We also worked very closely with (our son's) doctor to find the right medication for him. Every day is a learning experience, but one I wouldn't trade for the world."

Nantz said her family's personal experiences with mental health diagnoses has given her firsthand knowledge of the struggles many Cardinal Innovations members and/or their families go through each day. 

“I have always felt compassion for anyone I supported, but having gone through very similar experiences, I can now truly understand the fear, the frustration, and the hopelessness that other families go through each day," she said. “I have been able to share my knowledge, both professional and personal, with others we know who also struggle with depression/suicidal ideation, and to assist in getting the intervention needed."
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