NC House Passes Budget
The NC House passed its $22.8 b budget late Thursday night with some differences from the Senate. Rather than adding new money to the Medicaid transformation fund as the Senate did, House budget writers instead reallocated $186 million previously set aside as a Medicaid reserve to the transformation fund. This left the House more money to spend. NC Health News broke down the additional funding proposed in the House budget:
- The House plan made cuts to so-called “single stream” funding that goes to the state’s mental health management organizations. Senate budget writers cut $171 million from the funding stream over two years, House budget writers cut $88.4 million and phased out those cuts by the end of next year.
- $10 million in funding to help small group homes housing adults with intellectual, developmental and mental health disabilities bridge a structural problem in their funding.
- Found $5 million in late funding to cover the costs of substance abuse treatment for people who have been using heroin and prescription opioids.
- Created $500,000 in funding for a biomanufacturing training center at N.C. State University.
- Ordered Cardinal Innovations, one of the state’s seven mental health management organizations, to invest $800,000 in cash reserves for capital needs at Carrboro’s Club Nova clubhouse for people with severe and persistent mental illness.
The two chambers will now work through their budget difference in conference committee over the next few weeks.
Dozens of Protestors Demanding Medicaid Expansion Arrested
An NAACP-led protest at the Legislative Building Monday ended in 32 arrests. The protesters, who called on lawmakers to expand Medicaid, were charged with 2nd degree trespassing after police warned they were disrupting business outside the offices of Republican legislative leaders. The Moral Monday protests have resulted in arrests previously, but this is the first time police have taken demonstrators into custody this year.
WRAL Editorial: Legislators should heed protesters’ message on Medicaid
A WRAL editorial argued that on the substance, the protestors were right. “The legislators’ refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, denying health care coverage to half a million North Carolinians, should be of far more concern than the protesters who interrupted their comfort and convenience.”
NC Mom of Disabled Child Takes Fight Against Medicaid Cuts to Capital Hill
WBTV profiled Natalie Weaver, a Cornelius, NC mom of a severely disabled daughter, who went to Washington last month to speak out against President Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. Weaver, says the cuts will force medically fragile children like her daughter Sophia into institutions. “I cannot imagine putting her into an institution. Because she is so medically fragile, she would actually die,” Weaver said. Weaver is no stranger to politics. She has also lobbied successfully at the state level for funding to treat children with debilitating medical conditions.
NC Hepatitis Cases on the Rise
Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a marked increase in Hepatitis cases in NC between 2014 and 2016. The CDC found a 56% increase in new hepatitis B cases and a 69% increase in hepatitis C. The jump in hepatitis cases is another consequence of the opioid crisis. The disease is easily spread through needle sharing among intravenous drug users. A new needle exchange program instituted by NC last year aims to arrest the spread of the disease.
DHHS Awards Grants to Increase Inpatient Behavioral Health Capacity at Rural NC Hospitals
Cannon Hospital in Linville and the former Franklin Regional Medical Center in Henderson, now operated by Duke Life Point Maria Parham Medical Center LLC, were awarded grants from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to add additional beds for substance abuse and psychiatric patients.Cannon will receive $6.5 million to help the hospital add an additional 27 beds devoted to behavioral health. An additional $10 million will go to Duke Life Point to help it convert 33 beds. The Department is taking applications for an additional site in Eastern NC.
The grants are funded by $18 million dollars set aside by the General Assembly from the Dorthea Dix property fund to expand behavioral health capacity in the state. NC currently ranks 44th in the nation in number of psychiatric beds. The Department’s initiative aims to put a dent in that statistic, by adding 150 beds dedicated for behavioral health statewide.
Amid Opioid Crisis, Interest in Pharmacy Lock-in Programs Grows
Behavioral health consultancy Open Minds evaluates pharmacy lock-in programs, which place restrictions on beneficiaries likely to over-utilize prescription medications. It’s an idea that goes back to the 1970s, but is gaining increased interest as a result of the opioid crisis. Pharmacy lock-in was among the recommendations NCAHP made in our comments to DHHS. According to Open Minds, “State evaluations of the programs suggest lower levels of utilization and reduced costs for consumers enrolled in the program. For example Washington State found a 37% decrease in physician visits, 33% decrease in emergency department visits, and 24% decrease in the number of prescriptions.” However, the data is mixed. “A study of North Carolina Medicaid beneficiaries found that while Medicaid prescriptions for controlled substances decreased by 17% after enrollment in the lock-in program, beneficiaries were 3.6 times as likely to purchase prescriptions for controlled substances out-of-pocket.”