Local Politics

DHHS sued over mental health budget cuts

Posted December 12, 2009 10:18 a.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2009 10:42 a.m. EST

N.C. health, mental health, Medicaid generic

— A disability rights group filed suit Friday on behalf of two North Carolinians who say most of their community-based mental health services will be terminated due to state budget cuts.

The suit, filed in federal court by Disability Rights North Carolina, names as defendants the Secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler and the Beacon Center, a mental health facility.

The suit alleges that two individuals, identified as Durwood W. and Marlo M., will lose the state and federal services that allow them to live independently.

"The loss of these services will likely result in their relocation to an institution," said Vicki Smith, executive director of DRNC. "These two individuals are caught in the tangle of a service delivery system that does not have clear lines of accountabilit."

Earlier this year, lawmakers cut DHHS funding by approximately $1.7 billion to help close a $4.6 billion state budget gap. Those cuts were later offset by about $15 million.

About $65 million to $75 million of the department's $390 million community services budget was cut. Mental health advocates says that cuts in Medicaid pushed the total reduction to about $500 million.