Criminal negligence: NC's underfunded mental health system

When there aren't enough beds, people die:

Chapman was the Charlotte man who sought psychiatric help at Carolinas Medical Center-Randolph, at one point telling staff he wanted to "kill his wife," but was released with medication for depression and instructions to call back for an appointment. Hours later, police say he had killed his wife, one child and a stepchild.

A government that spends hundreds of millions for capital projects and economic incentives, yet sends suicidal or homicidal patients back on the streets, can no longer lay claim to the title "Public Servant".

Here's more:

The most horrifying story came from Tony Long, who in an eerily similar situation to that of Chapman, is charged with strangling and raping his wife two days after telling staff at CMC-Randolph he wanted to kill her. He, too, was given a prescription for antidepressants and sent home with instructions to return.

This article deals specifically with Mecklenburg County, and it's apparent there are issues between state and local funding:

Mecklenburg County has the additional problem of being underfunded by the state. Mecklenburg's mental health agency gets less state money per resident than all but one of North Carolina's 24 mental health agencies. The state cut its funding by more than $5 million last year.

Sadly, this funding inequity is well known, but nothing has been done to rectify it, though N.C. Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill says she has tried without success. She said that "Mecklenburg has been generous with their county dollars and the state has taken advantage of that."

But we have to change the way we approach mental health issues, and that change must come from state government itself, as opposed to local or regional initiatives.

The folks I've met from DHHS are good people who genuinely care, but they don't have their fingers on the purse strings. You want to work on efficiencies and make sure money is spent properly, fine. Great. But sacrificing the health, safety and lives of those in need is not the way to develop a better system.


shortfall of mental health funding

I couldn't agree with your post more. But where's the outrage? Maybe the millions in the One North Carolina Fund could help those needing mental health services instead of subsidizing the political fortunes of the Governor and wasting limited resources on corporations that don't need the money.

Broken people

I think the lack of outrage is due more to resignation than a lack of caring. There is a widely held (but faulty) belief that people who suffer from various forms of mental illness cannot be "cured" of their diseases, so why even try.

The truth is, we're all broken to a certain degree, but some of us need more help keeping it together than others.


That is I disagree with your statement that the folks at DHHS have lost claim to calling themselves public servants. These are public servants, but they are cut to the bone in terms of staff and resources, and I would bet you that they are faced as a matter of routine with people who say they are having such thoughts but do not act upon them. Were they to hold each person who makes such statements, they'd have no beds for any other patients. In fact, that they have no place to keep safe the patients already in their care is a serious problem and has been for years. I don't think the lack of action in response to the pathetic state of the mental health system in NC is from any belief that the cause lacks merit. It's much worse than that. It is that the cause lacks a lobby fueled by the kind of money that results in tax incentives, regulatory breaks, and all other manner of advantage that we see produced for the benefit of fat cat corporations.

There are some champions for mental health issues at the General Assembly, but they won't ever have the clout that the fat cats wield.

I was talking about

the General Assembly with that "public servant" comment, Bru, not the DHHS.


In that case, you're absolutely correct.