The Five County Mental Health Authority, in partnership with local advocacy groups, held its annual Legislative Breakfast June 17, 2006 at Vance Granville Community College in Henderson.
This event brought together community members and their legislators to provide a forum to share legislative concerns and priorities and provided an opportunity for dialog about issues facing mental health.
Advocacy groups represented at this event included the Five County Consumer and Family Advisory Committee, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the Mental Health Association, System of Care, Families Supporting Families, and The ARC of Vance County.
Foster Norman, Director of the Five County Mental Health Authority, opened the breakfast and introduced Senator Doug Berger, Representative James Crawford, Representative Lucy Allen, and Representative Edward Jones, setting the stage for the discussion that followed. Kathy Daughtry, Mental Health Association Regional Program Specialist, led the questions and answer session. Raymond Stone, Five County Mental Health Authority Board Member, gave the closing remarks.
The issues discussed included:
Many of the issues centered on funding for Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Disabilities services. Approximately twenty-eight percent of North Carolinians are affected by mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse problems. The number of citizens waiting for services is staggering.
* Over 37,000 adults and 9,000 children are on waiting lists for mental health services.
* 27,000 adults and 7,000 children are on waiting lists for substance abuse services.
* 7,920 children and adults with developmental disabilities are on waiting lists for essential services.
Consumers felt that the system has critical needs and that more flexible money is needed to build community services. Adding more flexible funding for Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Disability services will grow needed services for people in the five county area.
Hospital Downsizing Fund Issue
The Office of State Budget has determined that there is a 2005 Special Provision that allows that the savings from the downsizing of Umstead and Dix will be used to pay for debt service. This decision will effect how Local Management Entities and their providers are able to build adequate services in the communities to meet the ever growing demand.
Community Based Services Issue
Approximately 5000 Medicaid eligible individuals are currently receiving Medicaid covered Community Based Services (CBS). CBS was eliminated as required by the federal government as of March 20, 2006, with the implementation of the new state service definitions. To ensure continued service, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) developed a plan to transition many of these individuals to other Medicaid services. However, there are certain services needed by our citizens that will not be covered by Medicaid. These services assist the person in staying in their community instead of costly institutions.
Other issues discussed were the need for more qualified professionals for mental health care, training, and education for behavioral health workers, more available resources in the community and the need for crisis intervention teams.
We need to continue a systematic mental health change that encourage communities and providers to adopt the “Recovery Model” of care that focuses on maximizing the ability for individuals with mental illness to create the life they want for themselves in their home communities while receiving the care that they need. We also need toi mprove the movement of persons through the mental health system by financing enhanced access to acute care and community-based programs.
The Five County Mental Health Authority will continue to work to ensure that the community receives the highest quality services available. We encourage consumers and family members to join an advocacy group to make your voice heard.
If you would like to join an advocacy group, contact Anita Mason, Five County Mental Health Authority, at 252.430.3035.