Governor Cooper’s addresses the ongoing mental health crisis in North Carolina. For example, depression and anxiety rates have quadrupled. Additionally, the rate of overdoses have soared to 72%, and the suicide rate in our young people has doubled (Governor Cooper Releases Roadmap for $1 Billion in Behavioral Health and Resilience Investments | NC Gov. Cooper).
The focus of this program is to enable NC communities with the proper resources to aid people with mental health conditions. The ideas listed were to offer better access to healthcare, revamp the Medicaid reimbursement system, and have improved transitional programs for those who are returning to society following incarceration.
Another key focus is to improve the response quality to those suffering from a mental crisis by offering mobile crisis workers and advance efforts to provide clinical drop-in services. Inpatient hospital services will also be upgraded by addressing the patient-to-staff ratio. The specific goal of this portion of the policy is to improve work conditions to retain and train staff. In turn, this will allow more beds to become available and enable hospitals to offer faster and more efficient services to those in crisis.
The plan extends its initiative into the communities of NC by offering mental health education in the school system to reduce the stigma around it. The proposal breaks down barriers by introducing a comprehensive approach in the primary care sector. That way, the mental and physical health gap can be closed, and everything will be seamless and on one accord.
This plan is quite thought out and offers important solutions to NC’s ongoing mental health disparity. As a healthcare worker, I am elated to see one of the components is to first address the myth that mental and physical health are two separate entities. In actuality, mental health and physical health are closely tied together. If anyone has experienced depression, they understand it can cause a decreased appetite, loss of interest in many aspects of life, and increased fatigue, to start. People who live in impoverished and low-income communities may not have access to the proper resources that offer education about how valuable mental health is. If the concept of caring for a person as a whole is introduced by the primary care physicians, it can help reduce stigma around mental health.
Improving access is also crucial to this plan because people who live in rural communities often have to go to the next town over to receive any type of medical attention. One possible solution was to improve access to telehealth. The plan suggested paying the startup costs for telehealth services. That way, rural areas can still have a way to participate in these programs. Teletherapy is a great way for someone to access their provider without leaving home; this is an especially great idea for someone who doesn’t have the financial means to drive to the next town every week. Being able to converse with a mental health therapist via Zoom or a telephone call could mean a world of difference. Having access to someone who can offer plausible solutions within that person’s means could also prevent any future mental health crises.
Another factor that stood out to me was addressing the gap between patients and inpatient workers. When COVID came into our lives back in 2020, it seemed the already-complex healthcare system was further complicated by this disease. Many healthcare workers became burnt out to keep up with the influx of patients coming in. As a result, many left their jobs due to being exhausted and overwhelmed, leaving the remaining workers in extremely difficult work environments.
That being said, I am curious to see how the plan will improve working conditions. The plan outlines making pay rates competitive and encouraging college students to enter into this field of work. All of this sounds wonderful in theory, but I’m curious to see how the workers’ mental health needs are being met. Competitive pay rates are great, but are employees being subjected to poor working environments to fill the needs of the community? If so, then the cycle will continue to be broken.
Employee health is crucial to any field, but especially the healthcare field. Healthcare environments should make sure all employees have access to mental health treatment. The place where I work – Rex Vascular – currently offers a relaxation area where people can go to destress. A committee dedicated to employee wellness also brings in goats and puppies for workers to cuddle with, and they have an array of fun activities and food parties that employees can partake in to get their mind off of work stressors.
I believe these are great practices and should be standard across the board, especially for employees who work 12-hour shifts. I’m sure some of the above ideas may not be within budget for everyone, but sometimes investments have to be made to prevent system failure. Happy healthcare workers produce better-run organizations that can provide outstanding service to the community.
In closing, this proposal has great potential to work and it seems like both major political parties recognize that something must be done to help the citizens of NC. I am excited to see what this actually looks like for our community once it comes to fruition. For example, I would like to see those alarming rates of depression, anxiety, youth suicide, and overdose rates significantly decrease. I want to see everyone have better access to healthcare and not feel shunned if they do not have many financial resources. Ultimately, my hope is to see a better North Carolina with happier residents who feel like their mental health needs are being met.
My name is Jasmin. I live in RDU, and I work as a front desk administrator for a specialty clinic and a guest associate at the Ronald McDonald House. I enjoy cooking, working out, and spending time with family and friends.