Mental health hasn't always been a big issue in North Carolina, but recently the proposed state budget has shed light on a worsening issue. The new state budget [pdf]
, approved by Bev Purdue, calls for reductions in the money available for state mental health services. According to News 36
Mecklenburg county alone will experience a loss of $4.5 million, while the overall budget calls for a reduction of approximately $209 million. One of the current problems mentioned in a file obtained from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services states that
utilization data appears falsely low at the end of the fiscal year causing the possible reduction in funding for the next fiscal year. This places the provider with an unacceptable level of risk.
As the State adjusts the budget in reflection to this problem, the NC Division of Mental Health [PDF]
estimates that every day at least 998 people are diagnosed with some type of mental illness. With less money for the expansion and growth of mental services in the state many of those who suffer from illnesses end up in various assisted living homes. One example of this locally is Hermitage House Rest Home in Castle Hayne.
According to employee Larry D:
the facility houses several residents with mental disorders, and that they are not separated from the others. This leads to fights, and other problems between residents that causes injuries and unnecessary medical spending.
According to the NC Department of Health Service Regulation's recent report
, there is not one facility that rates high on their 5-star rating scale. The average score for nursing facilities in the state is a 3 out of 5, with at least 5 facilities scoring a 0. To complicate matters worse the News & Observer
reports that an estimated 354 jobs will be cut as a result of the state budget. This means less employees to handle an already growing problem.