Friday, June 02, 2006

Mental Health Reform

State mental health officials unveiled a plan on Tuesday they said would encourage more psychiatrists to treat the poor, assemble more teams available to respond in a crisis, and teach other doctors about how to provide basic care. The effort, part of the $89 million set aside in Gov. Mike Easley’s budget proposal and in much of the Senate’s spending plan last week, attempts to jump start a mental health reform effort that started in 2001.

Under the plan released by Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom, the state’s mental health division would spend millions of dollars to develop mobile crisis teams which would be available when someone has a mental breakdown or to create recovery units and observation beds in community hospitals. Between $1.5 million and $3 million would be used to increase payments for psychiatrists who see patients whose only coverage is from Medicaid or state funds. New programs also would forgive school loans for psychiatrists who agree to work with subsidized patients. The Department of Health and Human Services also is seeking $4 million in outside grants to teach primary care providers how to provide basic mental health care.

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