House plan highlights mental health, courts, hospice and foster care

Posted May 14, 2015

— The full House budget hadn't been released as of Thursday afternoon, but parts that were unveiled Thursday showed House leaders are looking to invest more money in mental health, courts, hospice, respite and foster care.

Health and Human Services

Adds $20 million in one-time money for hospice facility development.

Increases funding for inpatient mental health beds by 14 percent, and directs the Department of Health and Human Services to build a new real-time statewide database to help providers find empty beds.

Adds $1.3 million for a foster care caseload increase and additional funding for a new program to help foster children transition out of foster care.

Expands eligibility slightly for children's Medicaid in accordance with federal adjustments to eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

Adds funding for more medical examiners, upgrades to forensics labs, new required training for county medical examiners and electronic death records Also raises autopsy fees by $500 each, half of what the governor requested, and funds two new medical school fellowships to perform autopsies.

Restores 2013's cut to home and community health block grants.

Cuts funding for personal services contracts at DHHS by about 30 to 40 percent.

Funds a pilot program to let adult day care facilities become licensed to provide overnight respite care.

Justice and Public Safety

Adds $10 million for probation and parole vehicles, plus $3.1 million for the governor's underage drinking program.

Adds $12 million for court system information technology, $3.4 million more for indigent defense counsel and $1.6 million more for interpreters, expert witnesses and jury fees.

Increases district court fees by $18.

Adds $1.6 million for teleconferencing kiosks in jails to allow inmates to talk to their public defenders remotely.

Gives the Administrative Office of the Courts more power by moving the Innocence Inquiry Commission and Indigent Defense Services under the AOC's direct control and would allow AOC, instead of legislators, to allocate assistant district attorney positions across the state.

Fully funds the staff needed to open 72 currently unstaffed mental health beds at Central Prison by January 2017.

Sets up mental health behavior treatment centers at four prisons in 2016 and four more the following year at a cost of $2.2 million.

Cuts 56 positions over the next two years at Franklin, Harnett, Piedmont and Southern correctional facilities by replacing watchtower guards with an “electronic intrusion system.”

Adds funding for electronic monitoring programs and community substance abuse treatment.

Adds six technician positions for the state crime lab.

Agriculture, Natural and Economic Resources

Adds $23 million in clean water grants and $13 million for water infrastructure under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,

Cuts DENR's operating budget by an additional 13 percent, to $1.9 million, including cutting dozens of vacant positions.

Sets aside $3.5 million for dredging in Oregon Inlet.

Keeps the North Carolina Zoo, aquariums and state parks under DENR, rather than transferring them to the Department of Cultural Resources as the governor recommended.

Cuts funding to the zoo and aquariums by $100,000 and instructs them to use "dynamic" (peak) admissions pricing to cover the cut.

Adds $5 million in additional funding for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Raises registration and licensing fees for drug manufacturers, packagers and wholesalers.

Doubles spay and neuter funding to $500,000 a year.

Cuts several safety and health inspector positions in the Department of Labor.

General Government

Creates a new Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and provides funding for a general counsel and other positions. The new department will pull together individuals and functions from a number of different places in state government, including an existing Division of Veterans Affairs in the Department of Administration.

Sets aside $1.5 million for ongoing archeological work around the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship.

Creates two chief curator positions for the state’s history museum.

Provides a $2 million challenge grant to the North Carolina Symphony, which must raise $9 million in each of the next two fiscal years to draw down the money.

Capital Projects

The House plan would spend nearly $49 million in General Fund money on nine projects, including

  • $15 million for state crime lab facilities
  • $4 million for roof repairs and asbestos removal at the Legislative Building
  • $2.3 million to replace the roof of Dorton Arena at the state fairgrounds
  • $1.6 million to plan a new Western School of Science and Math in Morganton

If no general obligation bond is passed in 2015, the budget would allow the state to use $267 million (out of $345 million) in "two-thirds bonds" - that is, existing capacity in bonds that have already been paid down.

  • $71m for a health sciences building at Appalachian State University
  • $65 million to complete a new engineering building at NC State
  • $90 million for new sciences building at UNC Charlotte
  • $13 million for a new medical examiner's office at Wake Forest University
  • $31 million for the first phase of the Highway Patrol Training Academy

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