The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee met yesterday for its first meeting since the adjournment of the long session. The agenda included a formal introduction of Secretary Dempsey Benton who is replacing Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom and Secretary of DHHS Secretary Benton stated that he is looking forward to working with the Legislative Oversight Committee on improving MH DD SA. He stated that Governor Easley had an overriding goal for the department to do as much as possible to fix the MH DD SA system, enhance accountability and identify long term structural improvements.
Dr. Alice Lin gave an overview of her report on the state of LMEs and the overall progress of MH/DD/SA system reform. Dr. Lin’s survey of LMEs included The Durham Center Area Authority, OPC Area Program, South Eastern Center, Crossroads Behavioral Healthcare, Sandhills Center, Five-County Mental Health Authority,and Western Highlands Netwrok LME. She stated that everyone is struggling with similar issues. Dr. Lin pointed to the speed at which NC moved through system reform. She stressed that it takes time for reform to take hold. She gave the example of Ohio which launched its reform in 1988; 20 years later reform is stable and productive. Lin spoke to the need to develop provider capacity in implementing the remaining crisis services and in brining SA into the system. During Dr. Lin’s presentation she did briefly address the urgent need to look at developmental disability services and to maybe look at moving them out of MH/SA.
The second part of the committee meeting had a detailed review of the status of state psychiatric hospitals and their closure. This section of the meeting was presented by Jim Osberg the Chief of State Operated Services Division of MH/DD/SAS. Several Wake County Representatives expressed their concerns regarding the closure of Dix without adequate community or structural alternatives to care for the population.
The meeting concluded with staff reviewing legislative actions during the 2007 long session and updates from the Division. Trish Amend from NCHFA and Julia Bick from DHHS presented on the success of the Housing 400 Initiative which created 425 independent and supportive apartments for persons with disabilities. Bonnie Morrell from DMHDDSAS presented on Crisis Services Implementation and she addressed the need to review crisis services for persons with developmental disabilities. These services are different from what are needed for persons managing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. The last speaker addressed the increase in CAP Slots. We have seen a 50% increase in CAP slots since two years ago. There are still many people waiting for CAP slots and services. She also addressed the need for LMEs to focus on how we move people with developmental disabilities from our DD centers into our community. Improvement is needed in this area.
The next Joint Legislative Oversight Committee meeting is scheduled for October 31, 2007. The main focus of this meeting will be Substance Abuse Services.