The Coalition will hold an Advocacy Day and Rally to advocate the protection of services and funding for mental health, developmental disability and addictive disease services on Wednesday at the General Assembly in Raleigh.
The Coalition represents individuals and organizations in North Carolina that advocate for persons needing services and support for mental health, developmental disabilities and addictive diseases. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and the rally will begin under the tent on the Legislature lawn at noon.
For more information on the event, contact Erin McLaughlin at 981-0740, ext. 507 or erin.mclaughlin (at) mha-nc.org
When we started this Task Force, I was resolved to figure out how members could listen to each other and hear additional perspectives on the mental health system and the struggles of those who live with mental illness. I’ve been told that this is a sort of “preaching to the choir” because Task Force members are already deeply immersed in/knowledgeable about mental health service delivery. But, years of working to change human service systems and organizations have taught me that we all develop “mental models” (lenses through which we see things) that sometimes actually BLOCK our ability to “take a fresh look”.
This is why at our last Task Force meeting, I asked members to make presentations to each other about their current activities in the mental health system. I know that each of us learned something new from listening to one another. We will finish these presentations at our March meeting, and we will have an opportunity to listen to Judge Buckner, who has a very unique perspective on both individuals who struggle with mental illness and the system that serves them.
The Listening Sessions we held last week at Town Hall represented another way that we could “listen fresh”. While we didn’t have a huge turnout, we heard the touching testimony of parents who have struggled to guide their children to stability in a system that itself is excruciatingly unstable. We also heard from volunteers and professionals who are working so hard to address the needs of those parents, their children and other consumers.
My week actually began at the Legislative Breakfast sponsored by NAMI-Orange and the Mental Health Association. This was another “listening session” for me and other Task Force members who attended. Here, after being touched by the story Charlene told us of her own journey, we listened for the impact of the current economic crisis on mental health services. And did we ever hear it! Not a pretty picture. Cuts everywhere. It is very important that those who care make sure that our legislators and Governor Perdue hear from us about what is important.
From a purely personal point of view, this last week of listening has helped me realize that our Task Force is not going to “fix” the deep, complex problems tied to a mental health system reform effort that has been less than successful. We are local and we should be looking for places locally where a reasonable amount of action without a whole lot of funding can matter. And, I should say, we’ve already heard some good ideas. We should also be looking for a few areas where local advocacy multiplied across many areas of the state might have an impact.
It disturbs me that we are back at that point where money/survival is such a dominant force in our lives that almost any other “cause” is completely set aside. As I write this, I’m listening to the “talking heads” once more reminding us of the “doom and gloom” which lie ahead – for years to come. So, state cuts in mental health service budgets jump to the top of the list. But, this does NOT stop us from “looking fresh” at the system, making local changes through collaboration, and changing the attitudes (through awareness) of citizens toward those who struggle with mental illness.
Natalie Ammarell, Chair
Adam Linker of NC Policy Watch wrote a post about the coverage of the mental health system in North Carolina. He also has some links to some intresting open letters and a “Rescue Plan for Mental Health”. It is definitely an interesting read with a lot of information check it out here: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/?p=3462
Last summer, the Mayor mentioned to me that former Commissioner Margaret Brown and others had been talking with him about problems that had emerged in the mental health care system, post-state reform. While I haven’t worked in the mental health field for years, I immediately thought back to my experience in community mental health in Boston during the period of “deinstitutionalization” in Massachusetts. I remembered the sense of chaos felt by service providers and consumers alike as funding was reallocated, service programs were shut down, and people were disconnected from providers they knew or couldn’t find support they needed.
Flash forward a few months to when the Mayor asked me to chair a Task Force charged with assessing the state of mental health services in Chapel Hill and environs, increasing awareness of mental health issues in our community and making recommendations to the Mayor and Council. It really didn’t take me long to decide that this was something I wanted to do. Again, my initial point of reference was my experience in Boston, which left me with a life long career interest in improving public and nonprofit human service delivery structures.
However, as I engaged in a series of telephone conversations with prospective members, “why a mental health task force” here and now quickly became apparent. I began to hear that:
- Implementing the change of mandate and associated restructuring of the Orange-Person-Chatham (OPC) area program has been difficult (to say the least) and the network of services seems not to be a network;
- Even with UNC serving as a sort of “provider of last resort”, one wonders if there is really a “safety net” in place for all those individuals who don’t already have insurance or Medicaid eligibility;
- Individuals in all age groups and with a variety of service needs have trouble negotiating the mysterious “system” – especially if they are not immediately in crisis; and
- (With all due respect) it would seem that the various State players have no vision, no plan, no solutions, no coordination and few funds to offer…
Today, after just two months of Task Force discussions, I am very clear that the dialogue that we can encourage, the sifting and sorting of perspectives, and some of the ideas already on the table can make a difference.
Natalie Ammarell, Task Force Chair
Joseph Coletti of the John Locke Foundation recently authored a report on the state of mental health care in North Carolina titled “Mental Health Reform: Steps Toward Improvement“.The report and recommendations can be found here.
“Reforms first adopted in 2001 have yet to deliver on the promise of improved outcomes for those with serious mental illness,” Joseph Coletti said in a press release.
The Franklin Press published an article detailing the Macon County’s decision to pursue further study of mental health issues and their interaction with state and local governments.
Macon County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Nov. 10 supporting further study of a possible intergovernmental service delivery system for mental health services.
This decisions is a result of a final report issued by the Mental Health Taskforce on Mental Health Services in Macon County. The report and its conclusions can be found here.