NC DHHS Submits Behavioral Health Plan

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) last week submitted its Behavioral Health Strategic Plan to the NC General Assembly, outlining ways to improve behavioral health services and address the opioid abuse epidemic.

The plan is billed as the first step and foundation for how NC DHHS will shape the behavioral health delivery system going forward.

“North Carolina’s behavioral health system faces many challenges, from a chronic lack of funding, to the stigma associated with mental illness, to a workforce that is hard to recruit and retain. Some challenges have been decades in the making, while others have emerged or worsened dramatically in recent years with the Opioid Epidemic,” the Executive Summary of the plan states.

More than 314,000 North Carolinians received behavioral health care last year, including more than 207,000 adults for substance abuse, according to state figures. North Carolina is averaging nearly four deaths each day from opioid overdoses, state health officials told legislators in November. More than 13,000 opioid-overdose deaths were reported in the state from 2005 to 2015. For each opioid overdose death, there are about three hospitalizations and nearly four emergency room visits.

The 90-page plan identifies two areas of focus for strengthening the state’s behavioral health system: ensure timely access to high-quality services and integrate behavioral health and physical health for children and adults. The integration would include routine screening and fostering better communication between behavioral and physical health providers. That component of the plan is also a included in the state’s amended Medicaid waiver request, which was submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in November and outlines the state’s plans to move to Medicaid managed care.

Read the plan.


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