News

With session’s approach, NC task force readies recommendations to address mental health, addiction problems

The Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use holds its latest meeting in Raleigh on Thursday.

Last summer, Gov. McCcrory announced the creation of this special task force to come-up with ways the state could expand and improve on services for people with mental illnesses and their families, many of whom are still struggling years after reform of mental health began.

nami2016-400x285But as the group prepares to make its recommendations to the General Assembly, there are questions about the limits on what the group can recommend.

Jack Register, Executive Director of NAMI-NC, is the only member of the panel representing consumers and he recently joined Policy Watch to talk about the task force, and what lawmakers should do this summer to help people with a mental illness.

The full podcast of Register’s interview with Chris Fitzsimon  is available below.

The March 10th meeting runs from 1:00pm-5:30pm at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S Salisbury Street, in Raleigh.

Learn more about the work done thus far by Register and other members of the task force’s Workgroup on Adults.

Commentary

Tomorrow is National Youth Enrollment Day for the ACA

Despite policymakers’ attempts to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) nearly 60 times, the ACA works. Further, both times all or certain provisions of the ACA have been to the Supreme Court, the health care law has remained mostly intact. In 2014, the ACA enhanced the well-being of nearly 460,000 North Carolinians who were able to obtain affordable health care coverage. Open Enrollment 3 started on November 1, 2015 and goes until January 31, 2016. While many residents of the Tar Heel state understand the benefits of the ACA, only 28 percent of enrollees are young adults based on 2014 enrollment data. Tomorrow, January 21st, is National Youth Enrollment Day and advocates of the ACA are encouraging young adults to get covered.

Why should young adults enroll in the ACA?

  • Even though the ACA allows youth until age 26 years to remain on their parents’ insurance, adults between the ages of 19 and 34 years are still the most likely to be uninsured.
    • Many pediatricians will continue seeing patients until they complete secondary school and college or until 18 to 21 years. For many young adults, once they leave pediatric care, they do not have a regular primary care doctor until their 30s and 40s.
  • Young adults are the least likely to have a health care home. Individuals who do not have a regular place to seek health care are more likely to rely on urgent or emergency care.
  • You can shop the Marketplace to find a coverage plan that fits your budget. This is especially important because…
    • Young adults were the hardest hit by the Great Recession, thus increasing the need for financial help in obtaining care through the ACA;
    • The average amount of financial help North Carolinians receive is $315 per month;
    • The penalty for not obtaining health care coverage has increased to $695 per person or 2.5 percent of one’s household income, whichever is higher. For more information please visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/fee-for-not-being-covered/ or call: 1-855-733-3711;
    • As of November 2015, 81 percent of ACA enrollees from NC selected plans that cost less than $75 per month.
  • Health care coverage offers one peace of mind…
    • No longer have to worry about whether you can access affordable or quality care when you need it;
    • No longer have to worry about waiting until a health concern becomes severe or chronic and thus more costly;
    • No longer have to worry about bankruptcy or the financial burden from medical bills if you or a loved one gets sick.
  • Affordable health coverage helps young adults access primary care preventative care…

There are 11 days left to enroll, please visit healthcare.gov to start the enrollment process!

News

Mental health funding in steady decline in North Carolina

A new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness finds that North Carolina is one of only 12 states that cut funding for mental health this year.  The map below from the report tells the story and the cuts are becoming a habit in the current era when tax cuts for corporations take precedence over everything else.

Fewer than half of states increased their mental health budgets this year. The rest reduced funding, including three states that have been in steady decline over three years—Alaska, North Carolina and Wyoming.

state-mental-health-budgets-fy-2015-2016

Commentary

Cuts to mental health emphasize General Assembly’s heartlessness

Another day and another lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully blasting lawmakers for heartless and shortsighted  cuts to people in need:

“North Carolina’s Republican legislators leave no stone unturned when it comes to cutting the state budget to make possible tax cuts most benefiting the wealthy and businesses. Then, they roll that stone toward the disadvantaged and people of modest means.

The latest action will cut $110 million from the budgets for the state’s eight regional mental health centers. The GOP solution? They say the centers can just use their savings to fill the gap, rather than use the money saved to look for new treatments and innovations.

So, while those who are able to afford private care can have access to new treatments that might improve or even save their lives, those who depend on state-assisted care will be denied those treatments.”

But, as the editorial concludes, we shouldn’t be surprised:

“The shortsightedness, the lack of any kind of sympathy for constituents in need of mental health care, would be astonishing were it not part of a disturbing pattern designed by Republican lawmakers to pound the defenseless poor at any opportunity.

And without new treatments that might help, those who depend upon the state for mental health treatment will hold the line at best and perhaps suffer more severe problems should their difficulties persist.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2015

Raising the bar: The Governor’s HHS budget proposal for behavioral health

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in “Raising the Bar” — a new series of essays and blog posts authored by North Carolina nonprofit leaders highlighting ways in which North Carolina public investments are falling short and where and how they can be improved.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget proposal for the years 2015-17 offers a welcome change of direction in the area of behavioral health services, which would see spending increase by 1.5 percent compared to current law. Though far from what is really needed, this modest increase would be a real turnaround from years past when lawmakers imposed significant cuts to programs and direct services as a way to balance the budget and make up for revenues lost to tax cuts. We are pleased to see the Governor’s support for restoring some funding to the health and human service budget to serve citizens with mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities, and substance use disorder services.

In addition to stopping most of the bleeding, this money would help the state to catch up on at least some of what was lost during the recession and begin to rebuild to address current needs. Furthermore, over the past few years, lawmakers enacted provider rate cuts year after year. Under the Governor’s plan, there are no further provider rate cuts.

Some new things to take note of that we are very heartened to see: almost $24 million is invested in services for mental health treatment in our prisons. This is the first time funding has been allocated specifically for this kind of treatment. With this money, 72 beds that are not open due to budget constraints at Central Prison’s mental health hospital can be fully staffed. Additionally, behavioral health treatment units can be opened at eight high security prisons. Funding was put in the budget to support the Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) program. TASC integrates community mental health and substance use disorder services with the criminal justice system to improve outcomes. The funding, about $1.86 million, will reduce caseloads of care managers to accommodate more referrals. Read more