We continue to work in North Carolina on ways to help the people of our state stay healthy.
This is complicated but we make progress every year. This week, I wanted to share some of changes we made in health policy so that you can learn more about what we are doing and what is available. This is not all that we have done, but it does include many of the highlights.
If you have any questions or if I can be of service to you, please contact me. Thank you as always for your interest in North Carolina and state government.
While we had to balance our budget and trim spending in many areas, we believed it was important to continue trying to improve our mental health services by providing more local options. For that reason, we increased funding for local inpatient beds for mental health patients by $9 million to $29 million and directed that the money be spent equitably throughout the state. (SB 897)
We extended the First Commitment Pilot Program until October 2012 and authorized the expansion of the program to up to 20 local mental heath management groups. The program allows properly trained licensed clinical social workers, master’s level psychiatric nurses, or master’s level certified clinical addictions specialists to conduct first-level examinations in the involuntary commitment process. Since local community hospitals have greater access to these professionals, the pilot reduces unnecessary time delays while maintaining essential safe guards of the process. State law generally allows only physicians to conduct such exams. The act also directs the Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services to expand its training requirements to include refresher training and to evaluate the participation rate of eligible examiners. (SB 1309)
The North Carolina Institute of Medicine has been asked to put together a task force that will study the needs of children aged birth to five with mental health problems, as well as the needs of their families. The task force’s report is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services by January 15, 2012. (SB 900, Part XVI)
The Legislative Research Commission has authority to establish a task force to study the costâ€‘effectiveness of supportive housing as an alternative to institutionalization of people with mental health, developmental or substance abuse problems. The study would examine whether such housing would help reduce the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions, improve treatments and decrease homelessness, among other outcomes. (SB 900, Part XVIII)
Nutrition and Wellness
The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee has been authorized to study the operation and indirect costs of the Child Nutrition Program. The program provides meals to children through their schools. (SB 1152)
The Division of Social Services has been asked to study and recommend ways to expand and enhance the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, which teaches people about healthy eating. The bill (SB 1151) also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to solicit proposals for local and state programs to educate consumers on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention.
The Legislative Task Force on Childhood Obesity has been extended. The task force has already made a number of recommendations on ways to improve the health of children in our state… (SB 900, Part XXVI)
The levels of physical activity that children receive in child care facilities will be examined by the state Child Care Commission under a bill approved this past session (HB 1726). The bill also requests that the commission consult with the Division of Child Development when developing nutrition standards for care centers.
The General Assembly agreed in its budget bill (SB 897, Sec. 10.27) to study the feasibility of reducing the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program by expanding eligibility for Medicaid to HIVâ€‘positive individuals with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The state increased the appropriation to this program by $14.1 million for this year.
The Division of Health Service Regulation will coordinate an evaluation of the education and training requirements for nurse aides. (SB 1191)
The Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters Board has been asked to put together a task force to develop guidelines for people seeking information and assistance in the treatment of hearing loss and the purchase of a hearing aid. (HB 1705)
TIMCO Aerosystems, one of the largest providers of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services in the world, will open a passenger seat manufacturing operation in Wallburg. The company plans to create 275 jobs over the next five years and invest $2.75 million at the facility.
Valendrawers Inc., a manufacturer of drawer and door components for the furniture and cabinet industry, will expand in Davidson County. The company plans to create 50 jobs and invest $1.2 million in Lexington during the next three years.
Cork maker Tasz Inc. will create 21 jobs in Caldwell County. The company plans to create the jobs and invest $2.2 million in Lenoir during the next three years.
Ground has been broken on the new Yadkin River bridge on Interstate 85, the first step toward improving travel and commerce along the interstate corridor, which is crucial to creating more jobs. The $136 million job includes widening nearly 3.5 miles of the interstate and replacing eight bridges, including the bridges over the Yadkin. The state will widen an additional 3.5 miles of I-85 in phase two of the project, which is scheduled to go out for bids in 2011.
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As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Please remember that you can use the General Assembly’s website to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information. The site also contains detailed information about the state budget and legislative schedules.