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Yes, fix N.C.’s broken mental health system

We agree with Gov.-elect Pat McCrory. This week he said one response to the horrific slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., is to improve the country’s and this state’s mental health systems. In North Carolina, he noted, “we have a broken system regarding mental health… This type of situation could occur here because of some people with serious mental health issues. (That’s an area) that maybe I can have an impact on as the next governor.”

He can indeed have an impact on the state’s broken mental health system – in at least two ways. He can prod the N.C. legislature not to whack funding for mental health services, as they unfortunately have done in the past to deal with budget shortfalls, and he can offer a budget that finally adequately funds mental health programs. North Carolina’s grossly inadequate funding of care and housing for the mentally ill has been widely reported. The state failed miserably in providing money for reforms in the late 1990s that aimed to move many mentally ill people from state hospitals to community treatment programs. That failure left thousands of severely mentally ill patients in adult care homes that provided inadequate security and jeopardized patients’ well-being.

Now, with the state recently closing Dorothea Dix hospital, which served the mentally ill, even fewer beds and resources are available. Many who need help are instead being housed in jail or on the streets, or must rely on families who aren’t capable of managing such illnesses. Sandy Hook is a sad reminder of the consequences of such inadequate alternatives.

This week, Gov. Bev Perdue had to take emergency action to avert more problems for the state’s mentally ill and disabled residents. Group homes caring for those residents became ineligible recently for Medicaid reimbursements for personal care services. Many could close their doors as a result, putting residents on the streets, so Perdue freed up $1 million to fund services as a one-month stop gap. McCrory said Perdue’s short-term fix should give him and the Republican General Assembly enough time to come up with a long-term fix. “I don’t think we have any choice but to come up with a long-term solution.”

That’s true for the state’s entire mental health system. McCrory is right to recognize that. We await his action.

Sanford on campaign, not Appalachian, trail?

Remember former S.C. Gov Mark Sanford, who claimed to have been “hiking the Appalachian Trail” while he was, in fact, visiting his mistress in Argentina?

Yes, that Mark Sanford. He’s reportedly hoping to become the next S.C. congressman, replacing Tim Scott, whom Gov. Nikki Haley tapped this week to succeed Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate. DeMint resigned to head the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Sanford may be hoping S.C. residents remember the three terms he served in the House (in the seat Scott now holds) and his two successful runs for governor more than his notorious interlude off – way off – the Appalachian Trail.

That may be difficult. He is now engaged to his Argentine sweetheart. And his ex-wife Jenny, who divorced him after the affair, is reportedly being courted for the seat herself. Her poise during the scandal left her hugely popular in South Carolina, and she was on Haley’s short list to replace DeMint.

Sanford vs. Sanford? Now that would be a political battle worth seeing.

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