Legislators Throw Mentally Ill Under the Bus: Tomorrow is a Day of Action


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{Division of Medical Assistance Team Forsaking North Carolina’s mental heatlh service recipients}

Tomorrow BlueNC will join with bloggers across North Carolina to urge our readers to contact legislators and bureaucrats in an effort to reverse a killing blow first mentioned here yesterday. This post is a background piece for the action tomorrow.

In 2001, North Carolina undertook a massive reform of its mental health system. The network of publicly funded providers had grown bureaucratic, bloated and stagnant. While individual practitioners continued, in most cases, to provide excellent care, the system was buckling under its own weight and lacked innovation.

The mental health system reform was intended to improve services and cut costs by introducing competition. In this regard the plan was a success, hundreds of private providers sprung up across the state to provide psychiatry, counseling, psychological services, case management, day treatment, job training, and community based services to mentally ill children and adults.

The problem, of course, is that despite being dead last in the nation in spending on mental health, state legislators wanted to cut more deeply, more lethally. They changed the definitions of the services they reimbursed. They slashed the rates at which doctors and therapists were paid, driving many away from providing services to impoverished children and families. They changed the system again and again and again, and many providers, including the massive New Vistas in western North Carolina, shut their doors and sent their clients into the streets.

There are a few dozen providers left after the storm of 2006. They are among the most creative, flexible, innovative entrepreneurs in the nation, somehow staying in business despite the state’s every attempt to force them into bankruptcy.

The state decided to kill mental health services once and for all on the day before Good Friday. Mere hours before the state would commence a 4-day holiday, word came from the Division of Medical Assistance that reimbursement rates for Community Support services would be cut by a third, from $60/hour to $40/hour.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCommunity Support services, a new service definition created by the state les than a year ago, allow clients to receive needed help in life skills (balancing a checkbook, etc.), accessing resources like child care, or practicing behavioral skills vital to living independently. Without these services, many clients will end up unemployed, expelled, or institutionalized.

The state, unwilling to try systems that have worked in other states, is going to kill the last few private providers by forcing them into this choice: Hire only low-wage workers who will provide sub-par services, or lose money and go out of business.

Tomorrow I’m going to ask the North Carolina Blogging Community to join with BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans in calling for a reexamination of this catastrophic decision. I’ll ask you to call and email legislators to demand a fair shake for the mentally ill. There is no one to speak for them, so it is up to us.

Thanks, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Categories : Action


  1. For those of you looking to get a head start…

    Link To House Mental Health Reform Committee members

    A complete email list for that committee: Beverlye@ncleg.net, Verlai@ncleg.net, Marthaa@ncleg.net, Jeffba@ncleg.net, Williambr@ncleg.net, Vanb@ncleg.net, Debbiec@ncleg.net, Lindac@ncleg.net, Jimcr@ncleg.net, Bobe@ncleg.net, Rickg@ncleg.net, Path@ncleg.net, Carolynj@ncleg.net, Jhl@ncleg.net, Marianm@ncleg.net, Earlinep@ncleg.net, Karenr@ncleg.net, Lauraw@ncleg.net

    Link to Senate Mental Health Committee members

    A complete email list for that committee:

    Boba@ncleg.net, Elliek@ncleg.net, martinn@ncleg.net, Charlied@ncleg.net, Jamesf@ncleg.net, Jimja@ncleg.net, Vernonm@ncleg.net, Jeanp@ncleg.net, Williamp@ncleg.net, Larrys@ncleg.net, Johnsn@ncleg.net, abs@ncleg.net

    Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. – (919) 715-3001 or (828) 252-0490

    Sen. Austin Murphy Allran – (919) 733-5876 or (828) 322-1410

    Sen. Robert C. Atwater – (919) 715-3036 or (919) 715-3036

    Sen. Janet Cowell – (919) 715-6400 or (919) 649-4172

    Sen. Charlie Smith Dannelly – (919) 733-5955 or (919) 733-5955

    Sen. James Summers Forrester – (919) 715-3050 or (704) 263-4716

    Sen. Vernon Malone – (919) 733-5880 or (919) 828-5853

    Sen. William Robert Purcell, MD – (919) 733-5953 or (910) 276-7328

  2. Drama Queen says:

    This is life and death. Remember a few years ago the police out west near Murphy who ended up killing a mentally ill man who had been off his meds and no one could handle him? There were no mental health providers either to help the man or to help the police deal with the man.

    Our police officers are going to be facing more and more horrible situations with mentally ill children and adults. It’s going to be too late for them to do anything but incarcerate them, hopefully with no one getting hurt. This state is sick right now and getting sicker.

  3. writ_of_summons says:

    Wow, the timing of this post can’t be better for me. I’m of course NOT a North Carolina resident but I’ve just been on the wrong side of a proverbial psychiatric gun. I had someone who I befriended recently only to find out the hard way that their seeming normalcy and friendliness was just an act hiding their underlying psychiatric disorders. Add on top of that that they are a ‘tweaker’ — daily meth user / addict — and I was really risking a lot by dealing with this person. Eventually the true colors showed themselves and now I’m in the process of getting a restraining order, and taking a mild benzo everynight so that I don’t go into a complete depression. He burned a bunch of my books, stole other things to feed his meth habit, and either burned or stole a bunch of documents forcing me to change all my bank & credit card accounts. Anyway, the guy has three possible outcomes: suicide, jail, or psychiatric treatment. Our police are so overwhelmed that when I told them that I could help them take down his meth dealer they just pass on it. So frustruating. (By the way, for the record, I’m perfectly fine with burning or ingesting certain types of plants for their mild intoxicating effects but meth is a WAY different story and as far as I’m concerned law enforcement should be doing everything they can to stop it.) So, I guess what I’m saying is that we as a society should pony up for providing the psychiatric services needed for those that need it. Otherwise, it will just come back to bite us in the ass even worse.

    In terms of the drug thing, California has Prop 36 which makes the sentencing guideline for non-violent drug possession that the offender goes to rehab instead of jail. Except if they are three time offender. Other states are adopting similar measures because they’ve finally woken up to the fact that so called victories in war on drugs are mostly phyrrhic. I’m a business person who also loves realpolitik. It seems to me to be a no brainer to legalize the illegal plants and use the tax money etc. to tackle the really destructive drugs like meth. Oh well, a pipe dream I’m sure — sorry for the pun — but I guess I’m just pointing out society’s utter lack of realism with both these things resulting in total pain for upstanding, well meaning citizens / taxpayers who only desire the the ‘domestic tranquility’ as defined in our Constitution.

    Ahhhhh….. thank you ScruHoo for listening. Just one other thing. Can Screwy or Uptown or someone help me with posting? I now have an account on this new and improved site (WAY TO GO SCRUHOO FOR THE MOVE!) I would like to post as I did before. Sometimes a fly in the ointment, but I love you people and love the respect shown even when we’re at complete odds over issues.


  4. syntax says:

    writ – check your e-mail. 🙂

  5. […] Legislators Throw Mentally Ill Under the Bus: Tomorrow is a Day of Action […]

  6. I agree that we need to provide resources to deal with those that have disorders …

    a point often overlooked in the discussion is:

    why are we seeing such an increase in disorders and diseases in our population especially the young??

    I used to have tendencies towards depression, sleep disorder and at times unexplained overwhelming anger…. then I stopped eating fast food, any and all, and lo and behold I am all better without medication….I am not saying this is proof, just makes you think.


  7. […] Legislators Throw Mentally Ill Under the Bus: Tomorrow is a Day of Action […]