Margaret Rivers of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Wins 2021 Making a Difference Award


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jeff Van Ness, (202) 204-7515,



WASHINGTONThe Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) honored Margaret Rivers of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare with the organization’s national Making a Difference Award.

The Making a Difference Award recognizes an employee of a member plan who goes above and beyond his or her job’s responsibilities to improve and fulfill needs in their communities and support underserved community members.

 Margaret is a Certified Peer Support Specialist at Cardinal and pioneered the Transitions to Community Living Initiative. The program provides adults living with serious mental illnesses housing, community-based services, supported employment and community integration, helping to support their independence and connection to their communities.

Margaret and her team have connected with more than 4,000 Cardinal members who were living in, or were at risk for living in, institutional settings. As a result of her support, more than 1,300 members have made the choice to live independently in their community. This monumental achievement has given access to independent supported living to many people who may have spent their entire lives in an institution or congregate living setting.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Margaret led a pilot program to bring cell phones to the front door of adult care homes, allowing Cardinal staff to conduct regular visits with members while remaining socially distanced. This virtual access, made possible by Margaret’s initiative, helped Cardinal keep members on track in their health journeys despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

In Margaret’s nomination letter, Cardinal CEO Trey Sutten notes that she pulls from her personal and family experience with severe mental illness to provide the adults she serves with empathetic and compassionate guidance. She enhances members’ self-determination by challenging existing barriers to independence and regularly proposing innovative solutions to remove them.

“Margaret knows firsthand how challenging the road to wellness and independent living can be,” said Sutten. “Relying on her own experience to shape her outreach, Margaret leads by powerful example. She is—as she will tell you— living proof that with hope and the right type of support and services, a person with a mental illness can live a full, rewarding life.”

“The Making a Difference Award celebrates the devotion Margaret demonstrates to Cardinal members and their families, as well as Cardinal staff who are witness to her compassionate leadership,” said ACAP CEO Margaret A. Murray. “Her service has an obvious, positive impact on the well-being of her community. We’re happy to have Margaret in the ACAP family and thrilled to honor her with this award.”

About Cardinal Innovations Healthcare:

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare is a specialized health plan and care coordinator for Medicaid recipients and the under- and uninsured in North Carolina with complex behavioral and special needs. Cardinal Innovations connects people with treatment and support for mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders through a network of providers in their communities. The organization serves this important role in 20 counties. In 2020, Cardinal Innovations administered nearly $850 million for the care of 825,000 people in the region and invested more than $50 million to improve support systems and to respond to the pandemic. Cardinal Innovations also works with local governments to address public health concerns such as homelessness, suicide prevention, child welfare and domestic violence through education, engagement and outreach.

About ACAP:

ACAP represents 78 health plans, which collectively provide health coverage to more than 20 million people. Safety Net Health Plans serve their members through Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Marketplace and other publicly-sponsored health programs. For more information, visit


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