Mental Health Spending A Point Of Debate In State Budgets

May 29, 2013

The state Senate's budget would require doctors to get permission to prescribe certain drugs for mental health patients.
Credit NC Department of Health and Human Services

Differences in state budget proposals are prompting mental health advocates to rally for more spending on group homes and treatment. 

Gov. Pat McCrory's budget increases spending on mental health by about 2 percent over the next two years.  But the state Senate's plan cuts about 3 percent. 

The Senate budget supports the construction and expansion of a mental hospital in Morganton.  But it eliminates the nearly $3 million needed for a school in Durham that caters to 24 mentally ill children.  It also includes more restrictions on access to prescription drugs.  Mental health advocates say that puts patients at greater risk.

"Make it easy for people to get their prescriptions filled so that they can take the medicine that helps in their recovery, because if they're off their medicine, their health fails," says Debra Dihoff, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in North Carolina.

"And these adverse events occur, where they may land on the street, they may land in jail, they may have a call to 911, and it costs more."

Senate budget writers could not be reached for comment.  The House started crafting its own budget plan Tuesday.