Medicaid expansion is expected to roll out next month, bringing health care coverage to more than 600,000 eligible North Carolinians. As the Dec. 1 launch date comes closer, mental health services, doctors, and nurses are also expected to see big changes.
According to N.C. Health News, the federal COVID-19 relief funds and the $1.4 billion sign-on bonus North Carolina received for expanding Medicaid, made way for lawmakers to provide investments towards mental health services.
The new state budget makes significant rate increases, bonuses, and education for mental health workers, and changes to how behavioral health services are delivered to the most vulnerable populations. In addition, the budget directs hundreds of millions to support children in foster care and expand preventive mental health care and crisis care services, according to N.C. Health News.
Millions of dollars have also been allocated to construct new facilities at universities and community colleges to train health care workers, new mobile crisis teams, and updating the registry of available beds to help locate available treatment options.
WUNC reports that one of the biggest allocations is for UNC Health. With $76 million in funding, UNC Health is expected to build a new children’s hospital, including a mental health facility.
“This budget is a seismic investment,” stated Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley. “It’s one of the largest investments in mental health that we’ve seen, perhaps ever.”
The critical investments come at a time when many North Carolinians lost health care coverage due to federal programs ending and state Republicans holding out for months on the budget.
Despite Medicaid expansion becoming a win for state Democrats and low-income North Carolinians, state Republicans found ways to benefit themselves.
According to WUNC, the federal Medicaid money did not go solely to health-related projects. State Republicans designated the health care coverage money to go to their specific projects, including building a new auditorium at the private Belmont Abbey College, bathroom upgrades at a racetrack, a children’s museum, an agriculture building and a new Civil War museum.
“This money has to be invested in North Carolina,” stated Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, who has been critical of the Republican-led budget. “And once it’s invested in North Carolina, let the best person win. But it’s funny, in a group that talks about free market all the time, we do more to fix the outcomes than I’ve ever seen anywhere.”