Published On: Fri, Oct 1st, 2010
News | By

The Raleigh Report (Sept. 30)

SUBMITTED By the OFFICE of STATE REP. PHIL HAIRE

Work continues in North Carolina on ways to help the people of our state stay healthy. This is complicated but progress is made every year. Following are some of changes made in health policy so that you can learn more about what is being accomplished and what is available. This is not all that has been done, but it does include many of the highlights.

 

Mental Health

_ While the budget had to be balanced, it was necessary to trim spending in many areas since it was important to continue trying to improve our mental health services by providing more local options. For that reason, we increased funding for local inpatient beds for mental health patients by $9 million to $29 million and directed that the money be spent equitably throughout the state. (SB 897)

_ The First Commitment Pilot Program was extended until October 2012 and authorized the expansion of the program to up to 20 local mental heath management groups. The program allows properly trained licensed clinical social workers, master’s level psychiatric nurses, or master’s level certified clinical addictions specialists to conduct first-level examinations in the involuntary commitment process. Since local community hospitals have greater access to these professionals, the pilot reduces unnecessary time delays while maintaining essential safe guards of the process. State law generally allows only physicians to conduct such exams. The act also directs the Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services to expand its training requirements to include refresher training and to evaluate the participation rate of eligible examiners. (SB 1309) 

_ The North Carolina Institute of Medicine has been asked to put together a task force that will study the needs of children aged birth to five with mental health problems, as well as the needs of their families. The task force’s report is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services by January 15, 2012.  (SB 900, Part XVI) 

_ The Legislative Research Commission has authority to establish a task force to study the cost‑effectiveness of supportive housing as an alternative to institutionalization of people with mental health, developmental or substance abuse problems.  The study would examine whether such housing would help reduce the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions, improve treatments and decrease homelessness, among other outcomes. (SB 900, Part XVIII)  

Nutrition and Wellness

_ The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee has been authorized to study the operation and indirect costs of the Child Nutrition Program. The program provides meals to children through their schools.  (SB 1152)

_ The Division of Social Services has been asked to study and recommend ways to expand and enhance the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, which teaches people about healthy eating. The bill (SB 1151) also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to solicit proposals for local and state programs to educate consumers on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention.  

_ The Legislative Task Force on Childhood Obesity has been extended. The task force has already made a number of recommendations on ways to improve the health of children in our state.. (SB 900, Part XXVI) 

_ The levels of physical activity that children receive in child care facilities will be examined by the state Child Care Commission under a bill approved this past session (HB 1726). The bill also requests that the commission consult with the Division of Child Development when developing nutrition standards for care centers. 

Budget

_ The General Assembly agreed in its budget bill (SB 897, Sec. 10.27) to study the feasibility of reducing the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program by expanding eligibility for Medicaid to HIV‑positive individuals with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The state increased the appropriation to this program by $14.1 million for this year.

_ Assisted small rural hospitals with operations and infrastructure maintenance – $1 million.

_ Provided a grant-in-aid to be equally distributed to the six regional food banks within North Carolina – $1 million.

_ Eliminated 27 positions in the Division of Public Health – ($900,000).

_ Funded community services administered by local mental health management groups, fully restoring cuts made last fiscal year – $40 million.

_ Increased funds available for training direct care staff and front line leaders in patient care – $534,795.

Other

_ The Division of Health Service Regulation will coordinate an evaluation of the education and training requirements for nurse aides. (SB 1191) 

_ The Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters Board has been asked to put together a task force to develop guidelines for people seeking information and assistance in the treatment of hearing loss and the purchase of a hearing aid. (HB 1705) 

Notes

._ Ground has been broken on the new Yadkin River bridge on Interstate 85, the first step toward improving travel and commerce along the interstate corridor, which is crucial to creating more jobs. The $136 million job includes widening nearly 3.5 miles of the interstate and replacing eight bridges, including the bridges over the Yadkin. The state will widen an additional 3.5 miles of I-85 in phase two of the project, which is scheduled to go out for bids in 2011.

* * * * *

Rep. Haire and Legislative Assistant, Sara Jane Lennard,

may be reached at

300 N. Salisbury St., Room 639, LOB

Raleigh, NC 27603, 919/715-3005, philliph@ncleg.net

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