ASHEVILLE, NC – October 6, 2023 – The North Carolina 2023-24 state budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health services. The Republican-majority General Assembly recently created the mental health spending plan after consulting with patients, families, providers and Kody Kinsley, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Many town halls were held throughout the state to discuss the mental health problem. A repeated theme was the difficulty obtaining these services.
WHERE did the money come from?
- Federal COVID relief funds
- The federal sign-on bonus for expanding Medicaid
- National opioid settlement funds
WHAT will be helped?
- Crisis care services
- Preventive mental health care
- Mental health access in rural communities: Including recruiting and retaining providers, developing telehealth, and strengthening transportation services
WHO will benefit?
- Mental health workers will be a large recipient due to better reimbursement for services, bonuses, more education opportunities, and more hiring.
- Children in foster care
- Vulnerable population groups will receive better access to care.
WHERE will these funds go?
- Primary care provider support with behavioral health specialists
- New mobile crisis teams
- Crisis and respite facilities
- Non-law enforcement transportation program for psychiatric admissions
- Community-based services
- Establish new behavioral health programs: including workforce training centers for behavioral health providers, community college behavioral health training, mental health support in the workplace, and post-incarceration coordination between providers, law enforcement, and detention centers
- Substance use disorder services: awarded to communities, supporting research at universities, and promoting harm reduction
A big difference will be that the entry point to mental health services will be in qualified facilities and no longer the emergency room (ER). The ER has been overwhelmed with patients with mental health problems. As a result, a common scenario is that many patients require transfer to inpatient psychiatric facilities under an involuntary commitment court order requiring law enforcement officers to administer handcuffs and transportation. Mission Hospital is awaiting the opening of a new mental health and wellness center off of Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville that will improve access to early treatment and reduce these unwanted stressors. The facility will include 120 beds for in-patients, space for out-patient treatment, and more behavioral health providers.
Medicaid expansion will improve access to health care for about 600 thousand North Carolinians who finally are able to obtain health insurance. However, there is a lack of psychiatrists and specialized child psychiatrists in N.C. Therefore, the newly insured will see primary care providers for their mental health needs instead of health providers in the emergency room. This will provide a new source of financial support for rural health practices. State funds will be directed to support a collaborative care model for primary care providers to consult with behavioral health experts.
The funds for behavioral health will support a plan that offers more access points for care including more prevention of mental health problems and better crisis management. The funds are not intended to be a one-time allocation, but represent a commitment by the N.C. General Assembly to sustain the improved mental health programs for the state.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com