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Mental-Health Group: Easley Should Have Vetoed 2001 Reforms

Posted March 5, 2008
Updated March 6, 2008

— An advocacy group for mentally ill patients and their families says it believes Gov. Mike Easley is trying to rewrite history with comments he made Tuesday about the state's 2001 reforms of the mental-health-care system.

Speaking to the media, Easley said he had reluctantly signed into law that year's House Bill 381, which decentralized the mental-health system to create a more cost-efficient one that supporters said would serve more patients at a lower cost and provide more choices in services.

The system has been struggling with problems and claims of abuse, however, and the reforms have been slow to bring change.

Easley said his administration and Carmen Hooker Odom, then secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, "vigorously opposed it, because it was too broad with not enough accountability."

Odom, however, wrote in a November 2001 letter that she was presenting the new state plan "with pride and enthusiasm."

John Tote, executive director of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, says that if Easley was "that against (the reforms)," he should have vetoed the bill.

"If you think something should be done differently, then you still need to step in and say, 'I'm going to veto this. Let's get it right, then bring it back to me,'" Tote said.

Easley was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but his spokeswoman, Renee Hoffman, said that the reforms had support from lawmakers (the bill passed 79-12 in the House and unanimously in the Senate) and that Easley did not think a veto would make a difference.

"With those overwhelming numbers, the governor is not going to veto legislation," she said. "The governor's going to pick his battles carefully."

"I'm not trying to say, 'I told you so,' but I know why I voted against it, and I don't recall Gov. Easley ever saying he was opposed to it at all," said former state Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, who opposed the bill. "In fact, my recollection was that he pushed it."

With the media highlighting the failures of the system, the governor now plans to push for new legislation – reforms that many advocates believe should have been proposed years ago.

Easley's proposed legislation would give his administration more authority and control over the mental-health system.

Tote said he believes Easley needs to make fundamental changes to the mental-health system, but he added that it will be up to the next administration to carry them out and, ultimately, fix the system.

Easley has vetoed eight bills since he took office, the first in November 2002. In 2004, the state House succeeded in overriding his veto of a controversial bill requiring local governments to pay advertisers to remove billboards. It stood, however, because the Senate never voted.


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  • PikeMom4real Mar 6, 2008

    Why does the state feel the need to take care of the Mentally Ill to begin with?When one has a child with said handicap,back in the day they kept their own!Help is one thing,but to SUPPORT Financially in every way is NOT acceptable.Many of these people will never be able to live a sucessful,independent life,yet we keep dishing out money for no good cause.I can't help that I have certain things go wrong with my body,but does the state give me financial help,NO.Do I get someone who will take me out of the house,if I break my leg,NO.Another thing is we are all getting milked by this.People are taking advantage of it.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 6, 2008

    Yep this governor has basically been an atrocity for this State. He should resign.

  • TechRescue Mar 6, 2008

    I mean, once all of the emails are deleted, who can prove otherwise?

  • TechRescue Mar 6, 2008

    No surprise here, right? Our Governor, who is so quick to take credit for any successes, has disavowed any culpability in the DOT issues, the new Dix Hospital engineering and architectural mistakes, or this latest debacle, even though his polices of cronyism and political rewards are directly responsible.

    Another corrupt Democrat... No news here, people: move along

  • Karmageddon Mar 6, 2008

    The governor is taking a page from John Kerry's run for President. "I voted for it.......before I found out that I was against it"