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NC mental health advocates encouraged by Obama’s proposal to fund treatment

Monday, January 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
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Nicolle Karim is a member of NASW-NC.




RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Advocates for people living with mental illnesses say they’re encouraged by President Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million on treatment, but it’s unclear if Congress will approve that spending.


The president announced the proposal as he explained a series of executive actions Tuesday aimed at curbing gun violence. On Thursday, he participated in a town hall on CNN where he elaborated on his plans.


“Because every year we’re losing 30,000 people to gun violence. Two-thirds of those are actually suicides,” he said.


After years of cuts to mental health programs, more funding is needed, said Nicholle Karim, public policy coordinator for the North Carolina chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


“We believe that it could really help in some of the gaps that we have currently in our system for mental health care, especially in North Carolina,” she said.


In a report on state actions in 2015 to address mental health, NAMI writes, “In North Carolina, after two years of cuts, the governor had proposed a modest 4 percent increase to the state mental health budget. After a difficult political fight, the end result was that the budget took a startling $84 million (14 percent) cut. However, the state did fund a psychiatric bed registry and 150 additional psychiatric beds in rural areas.”


Some Republicans in Congress have questioned the president’s call for more spending, saying the system itself needs to be reformed for that spending to be effective.


According to a fact sheet the White House released, the goals for the additional spending include increasing the number of people who can be cared for and the behavioral therapy workforce. It’s unclear how much money the president wants to go to particular programs or states.


Sen. Richard Burr says he’s concerned about an aspect of Obama’s plan that allows for sharing limited information from mental health records for background checks on gun purchases.


“He asked governors to break the law because healthcare privacy is a federal statute whether you’re a doctor, a hospital, a practice,” said Burr.


While Karim says she’s hopeful Congress will back the spending on mental health treatment, she is concerned about the misperceptions of people with mental illnesses amid the national conversation on gun control.


“People with mental illness are your neighbors, are your friends, are your colleagues. It’s one in five. that’s 20 percent,” she said. “In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a crime than a perpetrator.”


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