Local Politics

DHHS offsets budget cuts by $15 million

Posted October 13, 2009 5:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2009 6:35 p.m. EDT

N.C. health, mental health, Medicaid generic

— The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday it is reallocating $15 million to relieve the impact of budget cuts on the community.

The move comes a day before a coalition of mental health advocates are expected to demand Gov. Bev Perdue call a special session to take care of what they call a state of emergency.

Earlier this year, lawmakers cut DHHS funding by approximately $1.7 billion to help close a $4.6 billion state budget gap.

About $65 million to $75 million of the department's $390 million community services budget was cut.

“DHHS continues to implement reductions in light of the tough budget situation, but at the same time, we are focusing on operating the mental health care system in a more coordinated manner to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of care to North Carolina’s citizens,” Secretary Lanier Cansler said in a statement.

A DHHS spokeswoman said the move was the result of a request from Perdue to minimize the impact of budget cuts.

Opponents of the cuts have argued that thousands of people will likely see a reduction, if not an elimination, to the mental health services they receive. Thousands who provide those services could also be out of work.

Cansler said earlier Tuesday that the agency has implemented approximately a third of budget cuts for this fiscal year and that a majority of the remaining will likely occur in the next 30 to 60 days.

Anytime costs are cut by more than $1.5 billion, Cansler said, the system will be different and the people that depend on it will be affected.

"This is unprecedented with respect to the budget of DHHS. The reductions are historic," he said.

Cansler will speak about the cuts and their impacts Wednesday before a legislative oversight committee on mental health.

The department is trying to do in 90 days what would normally take 18 to 24 months, he said, and mistakes and errors are likely to occur as a result.

"The challenge we have is to try to maintain the level of services to the extent we can with the dollars we have available," he said.