Gov. Pat McCrory offered a preview Monday of his health and human services budget proposal, which includes $30 million aimed at helping people with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders.
A task force McCrory appointed last year has been working on recommendations to improve mental health and substance abuse services, aiming to get some of them funded in the legislative session that begins April 25.
Mental illnesses and substance abuse treatment deserve greater attention, McCrory said.
“It’s an issue that’s been hidden in our emergency rooms, in our county jails and in our state prisons, and underneath bridges in North Carolina,” he said.
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He proposes funding for emergency housing for people with mental illnesses who leave hospital emergency rooms, prisons or institutions; special crisis centers that will serve children; and more money for specialty courts, such as drug courts.
The other areas of focus are:
▪ Adding 320 slots, at a cost of $3 million, in a Medicaid program for disabled adults that will allow people with Alzheimer’s and older adults to stay in their homes.
▪ Increasing enrollment in the state prekindergarten program by 400, at a cost of $2 million.
▪ Adding 250 slots in a Medicaid program for people with developmental disabilities that allows them to live in their communities, at a cost of $2.5 million.
▪ Improving the state child protection system, at a cost of $8.6 million
▪ Preparing the state to respond to the Zika virus by identifying and tracking the mosquito that carries it, at a cost of $750,000.
The Medicaid slots McCrory proposes to add would remove only a fraction of the people on waiting lists.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Rick Brajer said it would cost about $600 million to eliminate the waiting lists.
“As a state we need to work through that progressively,” he said. “There’s a strong commitment by the governor, you can tell, in both his heart and from a budget standpoint.”
McCrory said he was ill and took no questions, shutting down any inquiries about the new state law limiting LGBT discrimination protections. His office said Friday that he had been suffering from a viral infection for more than four weeks.
A rally at the Capitol supporting the law ended about a half-hour before McCrory’s news conference.