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Lawmakers Debate Improvements to North Carolina’s Mental Health System

Source: NC Newsline

The North Carolina State House has developed a robust plan to pay for mental health needs with part of the expected $1.7 billion federal “signing bonus” the state will likely receive for expanding Medicaid, according to NC Newsline

The plan proposed by the House would direct about $1 billion toward mental health costs over three years. Proposed expenditures in the plan include money for community behavioral health clinics, a centralized hospital-bed registry, community and residential treatment for children, and a loan repayment program for licensed behavioral health providers working in rural and underserved areas of the state that take Medicaid.

The most significant amount of money, $225 million over three years, would go toward raising Medicaid rates for behavioral health providers, the first raise in more than 10 years. The next largest amount, $108 million, would go to community-based pre-arrest diversion and reentry programs to keep people with mental illnesses from cycling in and out of jails.  

The House bill also dedicated $38 million for community behavioral health clinics, $50 million for the rural health loan repayment program, and $60 million for behavioral health urgent care. 

While the House’s plan would majorly improve the state’s long underfunded mental health system, the Senate budget proposed only a fraction of funding for mental health programs. 

The budget proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper included an investment of $1 billion in a three-part plan. The plan focuses on making mental health care accessible when and where people need it, building strong support systems for people in crisis and people with complex behavioral needs, and enabling better health access and outcomes with data and technology. 

Additionally, the governor’s proposal included additional school counselors and psychologists, a juvenile justice residential crisis unit, and higher education programs such as mental health first aid. 

Soon, lawmakers from both chambers will produce a state budget proposal to be voted on by the entire body. Lawmakers should follow the examples set in the NC House Budget and Cooper’s budget and invest in North Carolina’s mental health system.

Read more from NC Newsline


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