UPDATE: Screwy here. I've been hard at it all day, and your emails and phone calls are working. The heat is rising, and tomorrow's protest in Raleigh will be covered by all the major media outlets. Please come to the protest, organized by NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and NCAC. I'll have more once the day is done. Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to make our voices heard.
As of this afternoon, not one Western North Carolina mental health care provider has figured out a way to stay in business under the recent (and retroactive) fee cuts. Appalachian Counseling and Families Together, two of the three major service providers for the region are planning to shut down.
The best way to help is call Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom or Alan Dobson, Director of the Division of Medial Assistance, both at 919-733-4534. Or call Governor Easley at 919-733-4240
See yesterday's post for background information on the NC Mental Health Reform or go below the fold.
On the afternoon before Good Friday, the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance (NCDMA) chose to cripple mental health services across the state. This deliberately sneaky move has echoes of White House Friday night document dumps, and the NCDMA thought they could avoid a tsunami of phone calls and emails protesting their catastrophic decision. They thought wrong.
By cutting reimbursement rates for Community Support Services (CSS) from $60/hour to $40/hour, the NCDMA effectively made it impossible for private mental health providers to offer quality services and stay in business. Community Support Services allow mentally ill children and adults to receive needed help in life skills (e.g. balancing a checkbook, managing anger), to access resources like child care and medical services, or to practice behavioral skills vital to living independently. Without these services, many clients will end up unemployed, expelled, or institutionalized.
An emergency committee met on Monday and Tuesday, and mental health providers felt certain they'd see the light and correct the mistake made by the NCDMA. Instead the legislators skulked away from the meeting hoping no one would notice that they'd thrown mental health services under the budgetary bus.
While there are three kinds of CSS workers (Master's level, Bachelor's level, and others), they are all reimbursed at the same rate. The NCDMA falsely asserts that most CSS workers are unskilled know-nothings. A local mental health agency, Appalachian Counseling, which employs dozens of CSS workers, has only two without college degrees and many are Master's level practitioners.
The State government is forcing agencies into a terrible choice - Employ unskilled people to provide complicated services to our neediest citizens or go out of business. Most will choose to do the latter because most mental health agencies aren't in this business to make a buck. They're in it to provide quality mental health services for our most vulnerable citizens.
Now's the time to act. The Secretary of Health and Human Services Carmen Hooker Odom is responsible. Call her at 919-733-4534 and let her know that the cuts in Community Support funding will destroy mental health services and urge them to consider alternatives like this one. They will try to make you call another number which is a "Citizen Services" line and will put you on hold for 20 minutes or more. Insist on leaving a message with the Secretary Odom.
When you're done, call Governor Easley at 919-733-4240.
If you have the time email or write the Citizen-Times:
Crossposted at Scrutiny Hooligans