50 Years Strong

Celebrating a half-century of building healthier communities

The power of local partnerships

At Vaya Health, we’re inspired by the individuals and communities we serve. Through collaboration with local partners, we helped pioneer a community-based approach that puts people first. We believe that when we work together to make sure everyone can reach their potential, we all benefit.

Meet Drew

Owner & Artist, DMUD Ceramics

Drew is a Vaya member with an I/DD, and he enjoys the freedom of setting his own schedule and creating pottery inspired by nature. He uses an embossing technique with flowers, leaves, and other organic materials to create what he calls Seasonal Impressive Impressed Pots.​

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Meet Drew

“For so many decades, this population was kind of pushed out,” said Michelle Cates, Vaya Olmstead care manager. “They didn’t have any work, they didn’t have a voice, and they didn’t have a purpose. Having employment gives them a purpose, a voice and a place where they are giving back and being received by the community.”​

Meet Kelby

Youth Advocate

Through a four-year SAMHSA System of Care (SOC) grant, Vaya is expanding services and access to care for families and youth with mental, behavioral or emotional disorders in five counties.​ ​The emphasis on youth involvement is a standout aspect of the grant. Kelby Trejo, a youth advocate on the grant governance board, is already

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Meet Kelby

“Growing up in the community, we don’t have many opportunities to make choices on our own,” said Kelby. “I want to be able to advocate for youth and make them feel like they can be heard so we can aid them in all areas of their lives, whether it be education, health, employment, or relationships.” ​

Meet Rebekah

Peer Trainer, Recovery Champion

At the beginning of each Peer Support Training she leads, Vaya Peer Trainer Rebekah McCloy opens with a story about a woman standing silently on the edge of a busy highway, day after day. The woman’s husband, confused and concerned by his wife’s new habit, asked her what she was doing. His wife, who

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Meet Rebekah

“I was that woman. Vaya Health helped me get on a pathway to recovery, which I’m still on today,” Rebekah shares. “Vaya Health saved my life.” ​

Every month,
on average, we:

17,000

Manage services for approximately 17,000 individuals

5,200

Answer 5,200 calls to our 24/7 Behavioral Health Crisis Line

1,600 +

Maintain 1,600+ practitioners and agencies in our network

2,300

Support more than 2,300 N.C. Innovations participants

4,300

Provide care coordination services for 4,300 people

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We’re stronger together

Vaya has achieved much success in service of individuals across North Carolina, but we haven’t done it alone. In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we offer our sincere thanks to the many providers, partners, stakeholders, and staff who have joined us on this journey. The shared commitment to the communities we serve continues to make a difference in so many lives.

Our history

Looking Back

1965

Smoky Mountain Area Mental Health opens as an outpatient clinic in Jackson County​

1972

In response to national legislation, Smoky Mountain Area Mental Health becomes an area program that provides behavioral health and I/DD services in the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina and changes its name to Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services

1999

Smoky Mountain Center receives a three-year accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children

2001

As part of statewide mental health reform, Smoky Mountain Center transitions from an area program providing services to a Local Management Entity (LME) that  manages, coordinates, facilitates, and monitors behavioral health and I/DD services 

2007-2013

Smoky completes mergers with neighboring LMEs, expanding its reach to 23 counties

2016

To better reflect the geography of its growing catchment area, Smoky rebrands as Vaya Health, a name that embodies an organizational commitment to whole-person care and helping members move forward on their path to stability, recovery, and hope

2021

As part of the state’s transition to Medicaid Managed Care, NCDHHS awards Vaya  a Behavioral Health and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Tailored Plan contract

2022

Vaya finalizes consolidation of nine counties previously managed by Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, increasing the organization’s footprint to serve 31 counties​

Looking ahead

As part of Medicaid Transformation—a statewide commitment to improving health through whole-person care—the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services selected Vaya to operate a Behavioral Health and I/DD Tailored Plan for Medicaid beneficiaries with significant mental health, substance use disorder, I/DD, or traumatic brain injury (TBI) needs. Vaya will also manage non-Medicaid behavioral health, I/DD and TBI services for uninsured and underinsured individuals.

Since our contract award in June 2021, we’ve been working closely with providers and stakeholders throughout our 31 counties to help ensure a smooth transition for the individuals we serve. Vaya’s Tailored Plan launches April 1, 2023 marking another key milestone in our history.

Thank you for being part of this journey. Let’s move forward together.

Keep exploring

Explore the following resources to learn more about Vaya Health.

Keep Exploring with Vaya Health.

This page was updated on 10/5/2022 to reflect the NCDHHS timeline update for the Behavioral Health & Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities Tailored Plan launch.

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