Mental health funds under heavy scrutiny

By: - January 11, 2007 5:40 am

Possible $100 million increase prompts questions

Lynn Bonner, Staff Writer

Legislators may ask for a $100 million increase in next year’s state budget to expand mental health services, but advocates of such spending say they’ll need to show how the additional money would improve patients’ lives.

Legislators overseeing mental health spending and policies Wednesday considered the results of a lengthy and controversial report that said the state needs to spend an additional $2.7 billion over five years to provide adequate treatment for mentally ill people and drug abusers. The report also recommends a stack of policy changes to cut admissions to state psychiatric hospitals and bring order to a system described as fragmented and growing haphazardly.

No one expects the state to make such an investment, and legislators are looking at ways to scale back costs.

"We need to address structural issues that won’t be fixed by pouring money into the system," said Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat and co-chairwoman of the legislative oversight committee on mental health. (more…)

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066