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McCrory Proposes Funding for Mental-Health, Substance-Abuse Treatment

Mental health advocates are hoping lawmakers opt to restore much-needed funding for services cut last year. (CG Hughes/flickr.com)
Mental health advocates are hoping lawmakers opt to restore much-needed funding for services cut last year. (CG Hughes/flickr.com)
May 24, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. - As state lawmakers debate the budget, one item on the table is additional funding for mental health and substance abuse.

Specifically, Gov. Pat McCrory is asking for funding to implement recommendations from his Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

With one in five adults experiencing some form of mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, public policy coordinator Nichole Karim with the organization in North Carolina, says the funding is about providing folks affected by mental illness a fair shot at life.

"People with mental illness want the same things as other people," says Karim. "They want safe housing, they want a meaningful job, they want meaningful relationships, and if you don't have access to care in your community it can be really hard to have those things and to experience recovery."

Last year, North Carolina legislators made a $262 million budget cut to mental health services. Karim and others hope lawmakers restore some of the lost funding in the short session.

Each month, state funds support 26,000 uninsured or under-insured in need of mental health services.

Karim says in addition to needed funding, it's about making people feel like they can ask for and receive help without the judgment of their peers.

"Stigma is a huge issue around mental illness," she says. "There's a lot of fear, there's a lot of misinformation, so we would encourage anyone to seek help and to seek education because mental illness is an illness just like any other."

Late last month a new comprehensive mental-health center opened in Asheville in a partnership involving nonprofits, religious groups and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

NAMI estimates that mental illness costs the country almost $200 billion in lost earnings every year.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC