Local News

Transition Deadline on New Mental Health-Care Policy Extended

Posted February 19, 2008 4:56 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2008 8:04 p.m. EST

— Some families now have until October to find an outside provider to care for their mentally disabled loved ones, as required by a new state mental health-care policy.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services asked the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for a 60-day extension to this week's deadline to work with the families affected by the policy, known as Implementation 35.

The federal agency extended the transition deadline for those families affected until Oct. 31. The original deadline was Feb. 22.

Implementation 35 limits the hours for which family members can be paid to care for mentally or developmentally disabled relatives who would otherwise be placed in an institution.

The state plans to have health-care providers from outside the home cover the remaining hours for which it has been paying relatives.

Some of those affected by Implementation 35 have said it will force them to place those they care for into mental hospitals or a state facility because of a lack of health-care providers across the state.

As the policy stands now, there are no exceptions.

The extension, however, could also give the state time to revisit the policy and give lawmakers a chance to intervene when the next legislative session convenes in three months.

Sen. Larry Shaw, D-Cumberland has asked for a moratorium on Implementation 35 and wants to introduce a bill to stop it.

Gov. Mike Easley has also said he thinks the policy has to be changed.

"At some point, you have to get away from rules and regulations so much and concentrate on what is in the best interest of the person you're trying to help," Easley said on Feb. 7. "And sometimes, these rules and bureaucracies get in the way of what it is they're designed – and really do want – to do, which is help the person."