Under the Dome

Committee meeting on mental health turns heated

Police officers were called to help clear the room after a legislative committee meeting on proposed changes to the state's mental health system ended before advocates for people with developmental disabilities were given a chance to speak.

At issue is a plan to consolidate local mental health agencies across the state and cut costs by giving them more authority to manage limited resources to help people with serious mental illnesses, developmental disabilities or substance abuse issues. There are currently long waiting lists for families seeking some treatment services through Medicaid, which pays for much of the care for people who qualify as permanently disabled.

"My biggest concern are the people who are currently receiving no services," said bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Barnhart, a Concord Republican who is also the CEO of Cabarrus Community Health Centers, Inc. "Everyone will get the level of services they need. No more, no less."

Under the new managed care system, many parents and caregivers for people with developmental disabilities are worried they will lose what services they now receive. They look at the sometimes spastic system wide changes imposed by the state's mental health bureaucrats in recent years, and see yet another reform plan being rushed through the legislature before all the kinks are ironed out.

At the very end of the hour-long committee meeting, Chairman Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, also a Concord Republican, announced it was time to hear from members of the public. The first to be recognized was Mary K. Short, the mother of a severely disabled daughter.

"The people who wrote all these past mistakes are the same people who wrote this," Short said. "The idea that you're going to save money when people are on waiting lists is absurd. ... The families aren't the ones running things over budget. Families are not the problem. It's the people at the (Division of Medical Assistance) who keep writing all these things that keep failing."

After Short spoke, Hartsell declared that time had run out and that the meeting was over. That triggered an angry response from the advocates and family members backed into the back of the room, many of whom had traveled from across the state to be heard on the bill likely to greatly affect their lives and those of their loved ones.

As people shouted at Hartsell, asking to be allowed to speak, three General Assembly police officers entered the room. Lt. Martin Brock, the ranking officer on scene, positioned himself in front of Sen. Hartsell, attempting to protect the legislator from the ire of a disabled woman in a motorized wheelchair.

The committee took no action on the proposed legislation, House Bill 916. Another committee meeting is scheduled for in the morning, possibly at 8:30.

Pat Wiegand, the mother of two adult children with Down Syndrome, had driven up from Wilmington in the hopes of being heard on the proposed legislation. She left the meeting room agitated and flanked by two police officers.

"Disgusting," she said. "We're never at the table when the decisions are made. It cost me 50 bucks in gas to get up here. Now I'll have to leave at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning to come back again."


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Urgent information please pass on to family; Duplin, and Randolph CI have had inmate elderly passed out from heat exposure other inmates are passing out and tempers are flaring. I had an voice mail message on phone from lady she was crying so hard I could not understand the name of inmate she said he died. Please pass this on to family members for urgent calls to GOV office and DOC. I am convinced these two inmates are not the only ones suffering and many are most likely being locked up. This is the most egregious inhuman treatment and torture possible. When did $ take the place of human life, DOC official Keith Acree said that fans have been installed but that Legislators will not approve the expense of installing air conditioning. Inmates are sleeping in sheets drenched with their own sweat! The elderly and chronically ill will not survive this.


P.O. Box 49572

Charlotte, NC 28277


who are you kidding they follow the rules when they want to

lunch was more important then listening to people who voted them in, they say what they want collect their pay check, travel expense checks and move on,

Rule my Asp 

signed petition

I gladly signed your petition and fully understand this needs to change for everyone.

Please sign my petition    4575/nc-cure-call-a-thon

was there

Isn't sad we pay for these people to look out for our best interest, they are elected by the people, and look at what they do to us.

And to think we live in the Bible (Beat) of the South.... Same on them for no human Compassion

I avocate for inmates in NC and let me tell you they get little to none help for their mental illness, crictal illness etc.


Also, if this is an issue

Also, if this is an issue that you feel passionate about and would like to help, please sign our petition, and view the video that I made that goes along with it. Thank you so much

I was there.

I was at the meeting in question, in fact I sat next to the reporter who filed this report, and I am close friends with Pat Wiegand. It should be noted that the Senators started the meeting almost 10 minutes late. So they really should of let us go another 10 minutes, but it was lunchtime and it was pretty clear that the salad bar in the cafeteria took priority over hearing a bunch of parents and siblings of retarded kids drone on and on about how they're about to devastate the way of life for over 10,000 North Carolina residents.

I've never been a very politically active person, however after 4 trips to Raleigh (I live in Wilmington) and a good deal of interaction with state reps and senators, I've come to the conclusion that they view us as a nusance at their job site and treat us as such. Not all of them, just most. And for the record I'm a registered republican but I'm appalled by the actions of the Republicans in the house and senate.

I will be at the meeting tomorrow morning, I'll have to leave at 530am to get to the 830 meeting, but I'll be there.

To the ignoramus who stated that we shouldn't let these individuals get free services from the taxpayers, try and get educated and then you'd know that many of these people hold jobs and.....wait for it.....PAY TAXES! So they are very much entittled to these services, but it goes to show how incredibly selfish and heartless you are that it bothers you that our government has programs to help care for the WEAKEST and most DEFENSELESS population of our society. Your mother must be so proud.

Committe meeting heated

Yes indeed, vote more Repubs into office.

This time they teminated the meetihng abruptly, next time they won't even have a meeting open to the public.

Elitst lawyers and politicians believe they are too special to have to answer the public's concerns.

Next time be more careful who you vote for.


Folks, the General Assembly has rules that they must follow. They must adjourn committee meetings at certain times regardless of what is happening, who is speaking, or if debate is occurring. It is regretful that some people who traveled to speak were indeed not able to speak, but rules are followed in the GA as they should be. It is not responsible to bad mouth legislators when they are simply following the process that has been in existence for many years.


It's appalling that legislators, knowing that constituents directly affected by the laws or mandates being proposed were present and waiting to be heard, would end the meeting so abruptly.  What's even more egregious is that these "reforms," have in fact cost far more money than they have saved.  Communities have never had the financial resources to implement services that were offered in insitutional settings such as the developmental centers such as Murdoch or Caswell, or even in state psychiatric hospitals such as Dorothea Dix.  Yet beds in those facilities were cut or  facilities outright eliminated because the community was expected to be able to handle such responsibilities - the result has been overwhelmed emergency rooms, where people wait not days, but sometimes weeks to be admitted to a (sometimes somewhat) proper facility, increased need for mental health services in jails and prisons as persons exhibiting severe psychosis commit crimes of trespassing, assault, or agitating others into physical altercations, and community providers with long waitlists for services, or an inability to truly offer effective treatment to the severe and persistently mentally ill.  Services for those with developmental disabilities are harder to obtain, and heaven forbid someone have both mental illness and a developmental disability - yes, this does occur.  In many ways, the original thought of the 1960s to move persons into the community, while kindhearted in intention, became more of a way for others to save money.  Now it appears that the treatment of the mentally ill has returned to the time when Dorothea Dix herself travelled through the Eastern Seaboard pleading for hospitals to be built.  It may be time to realize while that many persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and other afflictions of the mind may function well in the community, many others need the refuge of an institution to protect them from floundering in the community.  In the institutions at least, such persons could form a community of their own while receiving appropriate levels of care, away from the unintentional neglect of the community at large.

Yep, it's those darn

Yep, it's those darn entitled Down's Syndrome victims causing trouble again.

Why is it always the entitled class that acts out.

What makes these people think that the are entitled to receive free services from the taxpayers and act like they do?  When the time for a committee hearing is up, it really is up. 

These legislators are

These legislators are supposed to be deciding on what benefits to offer the disabled and they can't even take an hour out of their day to listen to them.  It's absolutely disgusting.  Our legislature needs to be banned from the state.  They couldn't care less about anything except being re-elected and they never accomplish any good that I can tell.  A cow has more sense than they do.

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