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Since Republicans have been in charge in Raleigh, the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed for North Carolinians, causing a detrimental impact on mental health services

Click here for more background on how N.C. Republicans have failed to address the needs of North Carolinians who live with mental illness and addiction.

Republicans in the North Carolina legislature have failed to understand the connection between faltering mental health services in the state and rising health care costs.

Mental health care is health care, but services for mental health and substance abuse treatment in North Carolina remain costly and inaccessible.

Four N.C. cities are in the top 20 nationally for opiate abuse and the state’s prisons house more people living with mental illnesses than the state’s treatment facilities.

A recent increase in attention to widespread opioid addiction has brought to light the devastating effects of the state legislature’s failure to help people battling addiction. The 2017 STOP Act addressed part of the problem, but the Republican-led legislature’s politically-motivated refusal to expand access to Medicaid will cost lives.

Republicans have limited access to mental health services in ways that extend beyond the cost to individuals.

Instead of passing a bill that would make it easier for schools to hire psychologists, Republicans chose to add an unrelated amendment that would have dismantled coverage for preexisting conditions. The bill failed due to the added provision, leaving North Carolina students without support.

That move in 2018 was a continuation of Republican policies that cut mental health services. Previously, the 2015 budget cut $110 million from regional mental health agencies. Programs that were already financially strained were unable to expand or update options for low-income patients and patients who rely on government-funded treatment.

Republicans’ decision to shift to managed care allowed “dubious” private organizations to charge patients for inadequate services and further limited access to care.

Republicans’ 2011 shift to managed care for mental health services compounded with budget cuts forced agencies to dip into their savings to “maintain, rather than improve, services.” The shift also allowed "dubious” private organizations to charge patients for inadequate services and further limited access to care by only treating patients with Medicaid in a state that had refused to expand access to the program.

Meanwhile, Republicans added more hospital beds for mentally ill patients instead of expanding community-based mental health programs.

Republicans have inhibited access to mental health services by limiting access to health care, cutting valuable programs, and failing to think long-term.

Time and again Republicans have put corporations ahead of people. They listen to lobbyists from big insurance companies and managed care organizations instead of the people of North Carolina, who are being forced to choose between treating their illnesses or paying their light bill.

It is time to reverse the continued defunding of mental health and invest in a comprehensive, equitable system.

N.C. lawmakers need to shift their thinking on mental health and substance abuse. They need to realize that mental health care ishealth care. North Carolinians deserve access to affordable health insurance, community-based mental health programs, and high quality mental health services. 

Click here for more background on how N.C. Republicans have failed to address the needs of North Carolinians who live with mental illness and addiction.