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

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


As today’s Fitzsimon File explains in detail, not a whole lot of good things have happened on either the gun violence or mental health fronts in North Carolina during the two years since the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

“The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a report this week that finds reforms have stalled since Newtown with Congress again failing to pass comprehensive mental health legislation.

Efforts in the states are sputtering as well. The report examines the push to increase funding for mental health programs after the deep cuts made during the Great Recession.  It finds that many states increased mental health funding in 2013 and some managed to invest more in 2014 too, though not nearly as many.

Only six states in the country slashed mental health funding in both 2013 and 2014. North Carolina was one of them.”

Fortunately, there is something you can do about this absurd situation — right away, in fact. This Thursday evening, December 11 at 7:00 p.m., North Carolinians Against Gun Violence will hold a vigil to mark the second anniversary of Newtown and to organize against future tragedies of this kind. Here are the details:

According to recent statistics, there have been at least 91 school shootings, including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides, and unintentional shootings, since the tragic assault in Newtown, CT. Since Newtown, there has been nearly one school shooting per week.

On December 11th at 7pm we will be having a candlelit vigil to remember these victims as well as the 60,000 American victims of gun violence since December 2012.

WHEN : December 11, 2014 at 7pm – 8pm

WHERE: Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W Cornwallis Rd in Durham  – Google map and directions

QUESTIONS? Contact Becky Ceartas  at or 919-403-7665

Hope to see you there.


From the good people at UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union:

UE 150 protestA new report released by UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union highlights the need for ‘Safety, Rights and Raises’ for state DHHS employees.  The report details new information about horrible understaffing, vacant positions not being filled,  alarming turnover rates, along with Department of Labor wage data showing how far behind state employees are with their salaries.

DHHS employees, all members of UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union from Cherry Hospital, Caswell Developmental Center, Central Regional Hospital and Murdoch Center but representing workers in all state operated facilities, met with DHHS Sec. Wos and her administration yesterday.

‘We are glad that Sec. Wos is committed to continue to dialogue with workers, ‘ stated Regina Washington, developmental technician from Caswell Center. ‘However we are upset by her insistence that certain upper classes of workers deserve raises compared to direct care staff, who are the lowest paid and who receive the bulk of the injuries and stress. ‘ Read More


Mental health workersMembers of UE local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union, will be holding a demonstration this morning at 10:00 am at NC DHHS headquarters on the old Dorothea Dix Hospital campus at 101 Blair Drive, Raleigh. Workers are demanding that Sec. Aldona Wos meet with the union, extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and also grant workers “Safety, Rights and Raises”, which has become the slogan of their current campaign. Senator Don Davis along with Rev. Curtis Gatewood from the N.C. NAACP and Moral Monday movement plan to speak at the rally. UE 150 is inviting the public and all supporters to attend.

Organizer Dante Strobino explains the genesis of the event and some of the indignities visited upon state mental health workers in the following essay.

State mental health workers launch campaign for Safety, Rights and Raises
By Dante Strobino

Jessica Brandon, a mother of three whose 40-year-old husband has had four heart attacks, is the sole wage earner in her family. For the past 5 ½ years she has worked as a healthcare technician at Central Regional Hospital in Butner, North Carolina, one of three state psychiatric hospitals. After paying essential bills for the family, Brandon said, she typically has less than $40 left for the month. Read More