A legislative oversight committee adopted a set of proposed changes to how the state's mental health system works Tuesday and what may be most remarkable about them is how unremarkable they are.
The system has been failing, as a series in The News & Observer noted, and last year, lawmakers adopted a series of reforms. Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a chairman of the legislature's oversight committee on the issue, said Tuesday that unlike every other year, his committee is recommending that the state keep doing what it has been doing.
"The things we did last year appear to be working," Nesbitt said.
Among the committees recommendations are changes that would:
--Require the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain a database recording any deaths that occur in state facilities.
--Double to 180 days the time a person must live in the state before seeking Medicaid assistance for services in state facilities. The change is intended to stop other states from sending patients to North Carolina for treatment.
--Increase salaries for state psychiatric hospital staff to help the state recruit qualified employees. This provision is intended to help curb abuses and neglect in state facilities.
--Expand the amount of beds available for patients in their communities, which would free space in the state's psychiatric hospitals.
It is not yet clear how much the proposals would cost. The state is facing a severe budget deficit that experts predict will be $2 billion or more out of a $21.5 billion budget.
Rep. William Brisson, a Dublin Democrat said he is afraid of the reaction other legislators will have to an increase for more money.
"It's hard to keep asking when we're not getting our money's worth," Brisson said.
The bills had not yet been drafted but will likely be filed soon.