Source:NC Health News
The latest North Carolina state budget included massive investments in mental health services, in part thanks to federal Covid relief funds, as well as the $1.4 billion sign-on bonus the state received for expanding medicaid. Legislators worked closely with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley and visited patients and providers across the state for their input, according to NC Health News.
In addition to funding dedicated to improving existing services and providing new ones, the budget also included a boost in funding towards educating and training new mental health professionals.
One particular issue raised by patients and families that legislators wanted to address was having a more appropriate place for patients experiencing a crisis; in recent years, ERs have been overwhelmed by mental health patients. Oftentimes mental health patients that end up in ERs have to wait days or even weeks for a bed to open up in an inpatient psychiatric facility.
To address this, the budget allocated $80 million over two years for new mobile crisis teams and for crisis and respite facilities, an alternative to the emergency room for people experiencing mental health distress. Mobile crisis teams are made up of specialized behavioral health providers that can meet people where they are located.
There was also an allocation of $20 million over two years to fund a non-law enforcement pilot program for transporting patients; currently, police officers handcuff and transport patients in police vehicles.
Additionally, the budget included hundreds of millions in recurrent funding to increase reimbursement rates for a variety of health care positions, including skilled nursing facility workers, personal care service providers, and direct care workers for people on both state and federally funded Medicaid programs. The NC Loan Repayment program was also expanded with a specific aim at recruiting and retaining primary care and behavioral health providers to rural or underserved areas of the state.