Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory says he will ask lawmakers to provide more money for substance abuse treatment, caring for those with Alzheimer's disease and combating the Zika virus as part of the state budget he will present to the General Assembly later this month.
McCrory used a news conference outside the Executive Mansion on Monday to present a rough outline of his Health and Human Services priorities, much as he did with education spending during a news conference in Jamestown last week. The governor said he would put a complete budget package in the hands of lawmakers before they return to session on April 25.
Most of McCrory's proposals augment existing programs rather than propose any sweeping new approach. For example, he said he wants lawmakers to allow pharmacies to dispense Naloxone, a drug used to combat overdoses of prescription opioids or heroin, to anyone who asks. First responders have already been using it in the field to combat overdoses.
"People are living and dying based on their access to this drug," McCrory said.
In total, the governor gave a rough outline of how he might spend $50 million, a small slice of the roughly $21 billion state spending plan he will eventually send to lawmakers.
More than half of that $50 million would come in $30 million for new spending on mental health programs, including money for emergency housing and expanding case management – regular face-to-face support – for those with mental health problems.
His budget will also expand the number of slots available to those with Alzheimer's disease to receive Medicaid-funded treatment and expand by $2.5 million the amount of state funding to support those with developmental disabilities who live outside of institutions. McCrory says he will also ask lawmakers to ensure children with autism who are enrolled in Medicaid will receive the same behavioral therapy that the state recently required private insurers to provide.
Julia Adams, a lobbyist with the ARC of North Carolina, an advocacy group for those with developmental disabilities, called the proposal "one of the strongest budgets we've sever seen from a governor for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for the entire continuum of their lives."
The governor's budget is the first step in a very long process, the preponderance of which takes place at the General Assembly. Several key lawmakers were on hand Monday to lend their support to McCrory, but none spoke during the news conference.
Among the other highlights of the governor's presentation were:
- a proposal to spend $750,000 to combat the Zika virus' spread in the United States. The mosquito-borne virus is thought to be responsible for a rapid rise in Brazil in the number of cases of microcephaly – a condition in which babies have much smaller than usual heads.
- putting an additional $8.6 million into the state's child protection system
- spending $2 million to expand the number of pre-kindergarten slots available to poor families by 400