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The state’s health and human services agency launched an effort today for what it hopes better helps those dealing with mental health or substance abuse crises.

The “Crisis Solutions Initiative” announced Thursday morning by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos wants to stem the emergency room visits by those suffering from mental health issues, and instead steer them to community resources. DHHS estimated that there were 150,000 visits to emergency rooms in the state last year for addiction-related issues or psychiatric conditions.

“With today’s announcement, we begin a focused, long-term effort to ensure that individuals and families who are experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis know where to turn for the help they need,” Wos said in a written statement. “In turn, we can begin to reduce the tremendous burden that these issues place on hospital emergency departments and law enforcement.”

The initiative is in the planning stages, according to a DHHS news release.

From the news release:

As a part of this initiative, a Crisis Solutions Coalition will be created to address the inefficiencies that currently exist surrounding crisis services in the state. Secretary Wos has charged Dave Richard, director of the DHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Services, with leading this coalition. Patient advocates, along with leaders from healthcare, government, and law enforcement communities will be invited to join the coalition to help:

  • Recommend and establish community partnerships to strengthen the continuum of care for mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Promote education and awareness of alternative community resources to the use of emergency departments.
  • Make recommendations related to data sharing to help identify who, when and where people in crisis are served, and what the results of those services are.
  • Create a repository of evidence-based practices and provide technical assistance to Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs), law enforcement and providers on how to respond to crisis scenarios.
  • Recommend legislative, policy and funding changes to help break down barriers associated with accessing care.
  • Assist with the creation of LME-MCO Local Business Plans to provide a road map for mental health investments in the community.

 

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One of the most frustrating parts of the General Assembly’s ongoing move to renege on the Dix Park deal has been the out-of-the-blue concern that has materialized from conservatives for persons with mental illness. After working for years to underfund and privatize essential services (often, admittedly, in tandem with shortsighted Democrats), all of a sudden, these folks are desperate to sell off Dix for condos to get money to fund services for persons in need.

Conservative State Rep. Jim Fulghum of Raleigh wrote a letter to Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend, however, protesting that he was no Johnny-come-lately to the cause of helping people with mental illness and that he both supported the Dix park and somehow restructuring the lease to help persons with mental illness. Let’s hope he’s sincere.

The problem, of course, is that even sincerity of this kind isn’t gonna’ solve the state’s mental health challenge. As veteran lobbyist Paula Wolf noted in a “letter” to Fulghum on her “Paulatics” blog yesterday, Read More

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In case you missed it yesterday, the Charlotte Observer had a good editorial that offered: a) tempered praise for the McCrory administration’s plan to ditch the pink stripes on licenses for immigrants, and b) a big thumbs down on a legislative proposal to make it easier for people with mental health issues to obtain handguns.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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An editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right in calling on Governor-elect McCrory and state legislative leaders to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to the state’s failing mental health system.

“Pat McCrory, the incoming governor and a Republican, sounds the right note when he says, ‘Frankly, we have a broken mental health system in our nation and in our state. We’ve got to do some serious work to close those deficiencies.’ He’s right. Now the challenge for McCrory is to push his GOP majorities in the state House and Senate, where the inclination is to cut budgets in all directions, to invest in better mental health care, with something of a focus on that young adult group….

The new governor and the General Assembly need to face the funding shortage that lawmakers helped create and recognize that a state without adequate care for the mentally ill hurts patients and the state itself. Read More